Vultures frighten neighbors by flying into gardens during afternoon tea parties

Residents describe a vulture adapted by one of their neighbors as if it were from the ‘pits of hell’. The giant bird named Gilbert regularly flies outside and visits homes and gardens and its owner says he is just saying hello.

Not all of his neighbors are impressed by Gilbert’s visits. Alan Wells, 62, saved the bird a year ago after he was led for life at the Prague Zoo – which was then closed during the lockdown.

Gilbert – who has a 1.5m wingspan – now lives at Allen’s home in Somerset, but regularly visits locals in their gardens. The big turkey vulture can fly up to ten miles and some neighbors have been a bit flustered.

One described Gilbert as being from ‘the pits of hell’, adding that landing it in the garden was ‘the scariest experience of my life’.

But Allen, who runs the Pitcombe Rock Falconry, says Gilbert is harmless, tame – and just ‘saying hello’. He said: “When I coached Gilbert a year ago, my intention was to let him fly as free as I could.

“The idea of ​​her landing in people’s gardens never entered my mind.

“People are drinking afternoon tea in the back garden, on their patio, and he’s come right upstairs, looking around the table, examining the pieces on the floor.

“It’s not like every day a vulture comes to you and descends into your garden. ‘My message to those who complain about Gilbert is that he’s curious.’

“I can’t really predict where he’s going to go. He’ll go far enough and come home when he’s finished.

“He’s coming into your gardens because there’s something of interest to attract him. That interest isn’t small children playing or small pets, it will be a smell—usually from a trash can or food waste bin.

“The same has drawn him in, but he doesn’t want the food.’ He’s fed before he can fly, but it’s good for him to be able to do what he does in the wild – check the smell.

“As soon as he has made an inquiry and finds that there is nothing there for him, he will fly away. I would say to people that it is a privilege to have Gilbert in your garden – enjoy him, see a little nature all you will do don’t normally see.

“You won’t find this close to a turkey vulture at a zoo or in a wildlife park. Don’t feed him, don’t try to pick him up, let him do what he wants.

“If he’s making a fuss, call me and I’ll collect him – he has a GPS tag so I know where he is at all times.” A turkey vulture only eats dead things, so if your pet, guinea pig or rabbit is running around your garden, they are perfectly safe.

Alan Wells, 62, runs the Pitcombe Rock Falconry in Broughton, where he keeps many birds of prey, owls and even ferrets from the family.
(Image: Tom Wren / SWNS)

Not all neighbors are welcoming to the new resident.

One said: “It’s probably one of the most terrifying experiences of my life. Go out the front door, turn around and there’s this creature, almost it came from the pits of hell and I find out it’s a bird named Gilbert.” So it’s actually quite an exciting experience.”

Another said: “He’s not pretty, he sits on my box and frankly, he’s fluttering around and it’s so scary.”

Gilbert Vulture
Gilbert Vulture
(Image: Tom Wren / SWNS)

Allen of Broughton, Somerset, runs a falcon at home where he keeps several birds of prey, owls and even ferrets from the family.

Allen said it was a “golden opportunity” to add Vulture to his Falcon, a non-profit that makes regular visits to schools and offers education tours.

Allen socialized Gilbert with other birds and allowed him to roam free in the falcon – spending time with his little dog Buster. He said: “We keep ferrets here, and they are not interested in them because they are moving and they are alive.

“My very little dog Buster, who is the size of a Jack Russell, is smaller than a lamb – again, he’s not interested in her. He will go with her and hunt her with his brakes and Buster will get up and look at her disinterestedly and move on.

“His diet consists of chicks by day, male birds supplied by the egg industry, he also enjoys rats, quail, chickens, partridges and sometimes lambs.

“He only eats dead stuff. There are a few vultures within the 22 species in the world that actually kill their food, but he’s not one of them and has no interest in anything living.”

Allen says that Gilbert does not have the sharp talent to do any harm, adding that pets and children are not at risk. Gilbert was bound for the Prague Zoo, but was taken over by Mr Wells when the attraction was closed to visitors during the pandemic.

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