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Happy Birthday, Lord Richard!

Jun 10, 2018 08:24PM ● By Julie Ross

Lord Richard, photo submitted by Elisabeth Nardi.

Happy Birthday, Lord Richard!


By Julie Ross



June is filled with special events and observances: the last day of school, graduations, Flag Day, June weddings, the summer solstice, Father’s Day, and, rounding out the month, a birthday celebration in honor of Lord Richard, the beloved turkey vulture who has been greeting guests at Lindsay Wildlife Experience for more than four decades.


Richard came to Lindsay as a juvenile from the Randall Museum in San Francisco in 1974. She (yes, she) had been raised by people and would not socialize appropriately with wild turkey vultures. Keepers named her Lord Richard before they realized the bird was a female. (They found out when Richard laid an egg…) Anyhow, the name stuck. Richard turns 44 this year, making her one of the oldest turkey vultures on record.


Everyone is invited to Lord Richard’s birthday party, an all-day celebration at Lindsay Wildlife Experience in Walnut Creek on Saturday, June 30. You won’t want to miss Richard enjoying her birthday cake, a splendid confection of rabbit entrails topped with watermelon. Never fear, human-appropriate cake will be available for visitors at Richard’s outdoor aviary at 1pm. If you can stick around after we sing “Happy Birthday,” you will have the opportunity to watch Richard fly at the adjacent Raptor Redwood Grove as part of Lindsay’s Flight School at 2:30pm. Check out Lindsay’s website at for more details on this special day as they become available.


Because she became imprinted and dependent on humans at an early age, it was not possible for Richard to be released successfully back to the wild. Instead, she serves as an ambassador of her species, allowing the public to observe a turkey vulture up close and learn from observation and conversations with her keepers and trained volunteers. She is one of dozens of non-releasable wild animals, mostly California natives, that visitors can get up close and personal with at Lindsay.


I will leave you with some fun facts about turkey vultures:


-              A turkey vulture’s diet consists almost exclusively of carrion (dead flesh). They are not adapted to take live prey. Their feet are more like the feet of a large chicken than that of a hawk or eagle. So, when your neighbor/uncle/co-worker regales you with the tale of how a turkey vulture just about (or did) take off with their chihuahua, well no, it didn’t.


-              Because of their diet, turkey vultures play an important role as part of nature’s cleanup crew.” In fact, the species’ scientific name is cathartes aura, which translates to “cleansing breeze.” (Side note: if you ever have the misfortune of being in the vicinity of a turkey vulture when it pulls off its trademark defense mechanism of vomiting its rotting lunch to ward off a predator, you will certainly be wishing for a cleansing breeze.)


-              Turkey vultures have an enormous wing span of up to six feet yet only weigh an average of two and half pounds. This combination allows the vultures to soar on thermal winds for hours without flapping their wings while they scope the area for dead stuff.


-              Most birds do not have a highly developed sense of smell. Turkey vultures are an exception; they can find their food by its scent (odor?) from more than a mile away. Incredible.


Please join me on June 30 to learn more about our amazing local wildlife and wish the spectacular and engaging Lord Richard a very happy birthday. See you then.


You can reach Julie at [email protected].



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