My two and four year old girls were very excited when they found out we were going to a light show. We arrived a few hours before nightfall so that we could see what else the gardens offered before driving through the lights. I wanted to see what winter gardens they had - most likely located in the John A. Sibley Horticultural Center - but for some reason looking at plants was low on my kids' list of things to do.
|Aha, some winter flowers at the famous Callaway Gardens!|
|Cedar, a Great Horned Owl, sits on the glove of a trainer at Callaway Gardens|
|Great Horned Owl in flight|
|This Red-tailed Hawk is blind in one eye.|
|The red tail feathers for which the Red-tailed Hawk is named.|
|Guinevere, a Red-tailed Hawk at Callaway Gardens|
After being named, Guinevere was found to actually be a male bird.
|Rohmann, a Harris's Hawk at Callaway Gardens|
The last bird to be shown was a surprisingly handsome Black Vulture.
|Vinnie the Vulture, a Black Vulture at Callaway Gardens|
Vultures and other scavengers actually play a very important and much-needed role in the ecosystem. They keep the environment free of carcasses as well as limit the spread of many diseases. The stomach acid of vultures is impressively corrosive and can kill germs such as botulism, anthrax, and even HIV, according to the bird's handler.
|Vultures get a bad rap, but they are actually play a very important part in the ecosystem.|
So it would seem that nothing could kill a vulture, right?
Sadly, several types of vultures in southeast Asia have become nearly EXTINCT in just the past 10 - 15 years due to a drug called Diclofenac, which is used as a common pain-killer and anti-inflammatory for humans and animals. It is often used in cattle to reduce joint pain in order to keep them able to work for longer - however, it causes acute kidney failure of the vultures who eat the carcasses.
Thankfully, the Indian government has finally recently banned the drug for animals, and Nepal and Pakistan are following suit. Unfortunately, it will be some years before the vulture population totally recovers.
|Black Vulture in flight|
For more great information about some different birds in the Birds of Prey show, as well as to see what Callaway Gardens is like in the spring, check out Southern Meadows, a great Georgian gardening blog site.
Next blog post... Callaway Gardens' tropical butterfly house!