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Vulture Joins Paragliders On Their Journey Over the Spanish Mountains to Lead the Way (Known As Parahawking)

vulture joins paragliders
Image by Storyful Viral via YouTube

Because of their slightly rough look and not-so-appetizing diet, vultures don’t have a great reputation. But if we look underneath all of that surface stuff, you’ll find that they’re incredible birds of prey, way more intelligent than we give them credit for. A paragliding instructor has been training vultures so that they join paragliders to lead the way to thermal columns – making flights last way longer.

A Unique Aerial Encounter

vulture joins paragliders
Image by Storyful Viral via YouTube

In an extraordinary moment captured on GoPro footage, a massive vulture joined a pair of paragliders as they soared over the picturesque mountains of Algodonales in southern Spain. The footage showcases the bird alternating between flying alongside the paragliders and landing on their selfie stick, creating a stunning display of human-bird interaction.

The Beauty of Parahawking

vulture joins paragliders
Image by Storyful Viral via YouTube

British instructor Scott Mason, who has been training birds since he was ten, pioneered the activity known as ‘parahawking’. This innovative sport involves trained birds guiding paragliders to thermal columns, which are warm air currents that provide lift. This method not only extends the flight duration but also mimics the natural flight patterns of birds.

A Day Above Algodonales

vulture joins paragliders
Image by Storyful Viral via YouTube

Scott and a tandem paraglider captured breathtaking footage as they glided above the rural landscape of Algodonales. The trained vulture swooped into the shot, gracefully extending its wings and curling its talons around the camera pole. This unique interaction highlights the harmony between humans and birds in the skies.

The Birds’ Training and Rewards

vulture joins paragliders
Image by Storyful Viral via YouTube

The trained vultures, participating in parahawking, are sporadically rewarded with pieces of meat held by Scott or his tandem companion. This positive reinforcement helps maintain the birds’ cooperation and engagement during the flights, ensuring a seamless and awe-inspiring experience for all involved.

The Origins of Parahawking

vulture
Vulture in the air. Image via Depositphotos.

Scott Mason developed parahawking to raise awareness for birds of prey across Asia and Europe. His goal was to educate people about the vital role these birds play in the ecosystem and to portray them in a more positive light. This unique sport has since become a popular tourist attraction, drawing enthusiasts from around the world.

The Role of Thermal Columns

Single vulture. Image via Depositphotos.

Thermal columns, or updrafts of warm air, are essential for both birds and paragliders. These columns provide the lift needed to stay airborne for extended periods. By following the birds to these columns, paragliders can enjoy longer and more efficient flights, closely mimicking the birds’ natural soaring techniques.

The Experience of a Lifetime

vulture
Vultures in Kruger park – South Africa. Image via Depositphotos.

For those who participate in parahawking, the experience is unparalleled. Flying alongside a trained vulture while soaring above stunning landscapes offers a unique perspective and a deeper appreciation for the natural world. As if this wasn’t enough, you’re also privy to a close encounter with a bird of prey!

Promoting Wildlife Conservation

vulture
The white-backed vulture (Gyps africanus) fighting for the carcasses. Image via Depositphotos

Parahawking is not just about the thrill of the flight; it’s also about raising awareness for wildlife conservation. By showcasing the beauty and importance of birds of prey, Scott Mason hopes to inspire more people to support conservation efforts and protect these incredible animals.

The Evolution of Bird Training Techniques

Close up of a Turkey vulture perched on a rock.
Image via depostiphotos.

Training techniques for birds of prey have evolved over the years. Scott Mason’s approach to parahawking is a testament to this evolution, combining traditional falconry methods with modern paragliding technology. This blend of old and new has created a captivating and educational experience.

The Science Behind Thermal Columns

andean condor
Image via Pixabay

Understanding the science behind thermal columns is key to successful parahawking. These updrafts are created by the uneven heating of the Earth’s surface, providing lift for both birds and paragliders. By harnessing this natural phenomenon, parahawking allows for longer and more enjoyable flights.

The Impact of Parahawking on Tourism

bearded vulture
By Giles Laurent – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=142131878

Parahawking has had a positive impact on tourism in locations like Algodonales. The unique experience attracts visitors from around the globe, boosting local economies and promoting eco-tourism. This sustainable form of tourism highlights the benefits of combining adventure sports with wildlife conservation.

A Testament to Human-Bird Cooperation

Vulture
Vulture via Unsplash

Parahawking is a remarkable example of human-bird cooperation. The trained vultures and paragliders work together to create a seamless and awe-inspiring flight experience. This partnership highlights the potential for harmony between humans and wildlife, offering a glimpse into a more connected and understanding world.

How Clever Are Vultures?

vulture
Vulture just before soaring. Image via Depositphotos.

Vultures are highly intelligent birds with impressive problem-solving skills. They can locate food from great distances and use their keen eyesight and sense of smell to track down carcasses. In some species, such as the Egyptian vulture, they have even been observed using tools, like rocks, to break open eggs for food.

What Would Happen If There Were No Vultures?

turkey vulture
By Paul Danese – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=135899475

Without vultures, ecosystems would face severe consequences. These birds play a crucial role in disposing of carcasses, preventing the spread of diseases. Their absence would lead to an increase in rotting animal remains, attracting other scavengers and pests, which could result in outbreaks of disease that affect both wildlife and humans.

When Vultures Fly In Circles, They Are Not Waiting for Their Prey to Die

Cape Vulture, considered to be vulnerable to getting on the endangered species list. © jalonsohu on http://depositphotos.com/

When vultures are seen circling in the sky, they are typically riding thermal columns of warm air to conserve energy while searching for food. This behavior allows them to cover large areas with minimal effort. Contrary to popular belief, they are not circling in anticipation of an animal’s death, but rather scanning for already dead carcasses.

Why Don’t Predators Eat Vultures?

Ruppell’s griffon vulture (Gyps rueppellii) flying on blue sky. Image via Depositphotos

Predators rarely target vultures due to their unappealing diet and strong defense mechanisms. Vultures consume decaying flesh, which makes their meat less desirable. Additionally, when threatened, some vulture species can regurgitate foul-smelling and acidic vomit, deterring potential predators and providing a means of escape.

The Impressive Wingspan of Vultures

hooded vulture
By Amélie Tsaag Valren – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=70867718

Vultures are known for their large wingspans, which aid in their soaring flight. Depending on the species, their wingspans can range from about six feet in the smaller species to over ten feet in larger ones like the Andean condor. These wide wings allow them to glide effortlessly on thermal currents for hours.

Their Fave Food

vulture
Vulture staring in the distance. Image via Depositphotos.

Vultures primarily feed on carrion, the decaying flesh of dead animals. They prefer large carcasses, such as those of deer or livestock, but will consume smaller animals when necessary. Their strong stomach acids allow them to safely digest rotting meat that would be harmful to other animals, making them nature’s clean-up crew.

Vulture Joins Paragliders: Conclusion

seven condors
Image by wollertz via Depositphotos

This is a new and amazing way that we can make use of the intelligence of birds. And moreover, this is a truly great example of eco-tourism! It’s an experience of a lifetime that allows you to appreciate nature, but the views and encountering a bird of prey – and all the while you’re leaving no harmful trace behind you.

Thank you for reading this article about the vulture that joins a couple of paragliders! For more bird news, take a look at these posts:

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