Cayce is my favorite vulture. Is it normal to have a favorite vulture?
Normal or not, I suspect anyone who has ever met Cayce falls into the same camp–Cayce is their favorite vulture. Of course, for most people, there’s a high probability that Cayce is the only vulture they’ve ever seen (or at least realized they’ve seen).
This reminds me of when Pat and I went on a tour of Taliesin West (Frank Lloyd Wright’s Arizona-based school of architecture) and the tour guide told us that on almost every tour someone says, “Frank Lloyd Wright is my favorite architect.” He said he always has to stop himself from asking who their second-favorite architect is–he’s pretty sure most people who say this can’t name a second architect.
Like Wright, Cayce has the advantage that vultures (and apparently architects) don’t usually become household names. However, unlike the stories we heard about Wright, Cayce has an irresistible personality.
Dale spends a few minutes setting the stage by telling the audience about vultures, their role in preventing the spread of disease and their importance to the environment. Then she explains how Cayce was erroneously rescued and became a human imprint.
When everyone is wondering what it’s going to be like to see a Black Vulture up close, Dale calls “Here’s Cayce!” and I open Cayce’s travel crate. Cayce comes charging out and starts looking around like she’s trying to get oriented. I toss a small piece of beef towards the center of the circle formed by the audience and Cayce runs front and center. Once she sees Dale, she is good to go.
As Dale continues to tell the small audience about Cayce, she walks along the circle of spectators with Cayce following at her heels. It’s pretty clear that Cayce would follow Dale anywhere.
Usually, when the birds are going to fly during a program, they get their breakfast during the show, flying for their meal. This both keeps them properly fed and motivated to fly. However, on this day, Dale forgot and fed Cayce her full breakfast. Often, a bird of prey won’t fly if it isn’t hungry–after all, their instinct is to expend energy flying purely for the purpose of seeking food.
Fortunately for us, Cayce loves to please a crowd. In spite of her full stomach, she launched perfectly several times, buzzing the heads of the audience. Everyone ducked as Cayce barely clearer their foreheads–her feathers brushed back the hair of one taller gentleman. This is always a crowd pleaser.
One of the reasons an unreleasable vulture makes a great entertainer is because, unlike Cayce’s raptor relatives, vultures don’t have talons. Their feet more closely resemble a large chicken’s, making close fly-by’s much safer.
Of course, we humans would be happier if Cayce could live out her life in the wild. But I doubt Cayce agrees–after all, she returned to humans after being released several times. I think she found her calling.
*Photography credit goes to Pat, my wonderful husband who took all shots of the birds of prey program.