Vultures, antelopes and other crash landings

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by DaleForbes on November 6, 2011 · 1 comment

in Birdblogging

The other day, a video of a paraglider getting entangled and crash landing with a Himalayan Griffon Vulture was pretty much everywhere in the news. A Russian paraglider was evidently enjoying the high thermals and in the (Russian) video text, they explain how the Himalayan Griffons (aka “Eagles”) are common in the area and the paragliders enjoy flying with them and use them as a guide for where the best thermals are.

I find the amazing thing about the video that both survived the accident relatively unharmed, except for both being rather shook up by the event. It showed some pretty impressive presence of mind from the paraglider to respond like that, and then to take the time to carefully free the vulture from the lines.

But it did get me thinking about physical crashes between man and the birds and creatures around us. I found this video of a Eurasian Griffon getting hit by a wind turbine. Many of the video comments were rather critical of the “stupid” bird that should have seen that he needed to avoid the area; but a good few also pointed out that very little in the evolutionary history of these birds has prepared them for great big wind turbines. Now, one could argue that smaller birds – for example sparrows – have a history of being chased by sparrowhawks and goshawks and so need to be aware of quickly approaching danger, and quickly get out of the way in as agile a manner as possible.

But vultures just do not get attacked in the air.

As a young child, one of my mother’s friends came to visit one afternoon and we discovered a Barn Swallow dead in the radiator grille of her car. I remember this really affecting me – this beautiful creature lying limp in my little hands. This swallow – a master of the air – miscalculated something and found its end on the forehead of a metal antelope.

But talking about antelope, this guy also ended up on the losing end of an antelope while riding through Albert Falls Game Reserve (and area I spent a lot of time growing up). The Red Hartebeest (Alcelaphus caama) is pretty quick, running at 55kph (34mph) and easily weighing 120kg (265 lbs) so that has got to have hurt!

Come to think of it, that antelope was about the size of Jonah Lomu, but at least Mike Catt saw him coming and he was getting paid to stand in the way (however fruitless that turned out to be):


All this has lots of unresolved questions running through my head about our interaction with wildlife; where our responsibility starts and ends; our increasing need for more electricity and natural resources; and the meaning of life the universe and everything.

If anyone has any answers to any of these questions, I would love to experience them.

Happy birding,
Dale Forbes

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

cindy considine November 15, 2011 at 3:42 am

Here in Victoria, Australia, wind turbine farms have been at the centre of a debate over the impact they have on bird species, in particular, the critically endangered Orange-bellied Parrot. See short article for context: Needless to say, the wind turbines plan did get approval and they are currently situated very close to key areas of coastline necessary for migrating birds. 2 RAMSAR sites-Corner Inlet and Gippsland Lakes, flank both sides of the wind turbines location. Unfortunately the concern for the affected bird species was used politically and exploited by the conservative political parties to further their agenda, which is to protect the traditional coal-mining industries and hamper efforts to move toward more sustainable energy resources. The cause for protecting vulnerable species was then lost to political posturing and parodied by the media as a result, despite the ceaseless efforts of conservationists and local residents to have it as a central factor in the decision-making process. It’s interesting, however unfortunate, to hear about the impact wind turbines have on other species in other parts of the world, and to have confirmed that the turbines do indeed affect flight paths of bird species. I have yet to see any research on the numbers of vulnerable bird species here since the turbines were built, so reading your blog article was a good reminder to seek out this information. Thank you for a very thought-provoking read 🙂


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