Tuesday, 16 October 2018

Swan facts

Cygnus Atratus
91cm - 150cm (36in - 60in)
200cm - 350cm (79in - 138in)
10kg - 15kg (22lbs - 33lbs)
80km/h (50mph)
8 - 12 years
Black, White, Grey, Orange
Favourite Food:
Aquatic Plants
Large, shallow wetlands and open water
Main Prey:
Aquatic Plants, Insects, Small Fish
Human, Wolf, Raccoon
Large, powerful wings and webbed feet

The swan is a large aquatic bird closely related to geese and ducks. The swan is known for its fierce temperament and the swans incredibly strong wings which are said to be able to cause dangerous (sometimes fatal) injuries to any animal the swan feels threatened by.

The swan is found on both sides of the Equator across the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. The northern swan is generally white in colour with an orange beak and the southern swan tends to be a mixture of white and black in colour with red, orange or black beaks. The vast majority of swans, however, are found in the northern United States, Canada, and Alaska. They are commonly found on lakes and rivers.

The Australian black swan has been noted to only swim with one leg, the other being tucked above its tail. This helps the swan to change direction more smoothly when the swan is swimming on the surface of the water, should the swan spot food or even an oncoming predator.

Swans are omnivorous birds but have a very vegetarian diet. Swans eat underwater vegetation such as seaweed and aquatic plants when they are on the water and a mixture of plants, seeds and berries when they are on land. Swans also eat insects both water and land-based and the occasional small fish.

Due to their large size, swans have few natural predators in the wild. The swan's main predator is the human who hunts the swan for its meat and its feathers. Other predators of the swan include wolves, raccoons and foxes they prey both on the swan itself but also on its eggs.

Although swans do not mate for life, couples establish strong bonds between one another and can often mate for a few years. Swans build their nests on land out of twigs and leaves, and the female swan lays between 3 and 9 eggs. The baby swans (known as cygnets) hatch out of their eggs after an incubation of just over a month. The cygnets are often on the water with their mother swan within a couple of days and stay close to her for both protection and warmth. The mother swan will guard her baby swans furiously from predators or any animal that she believes is a threat.

Swans have many adaptations in order to successfully survive life on the water such as their streamline body shape, long neck and webbed feet. The wings of the swan are also very strong meaning that the swan is one of the few heavy birds that is able to fly, even if it is only a short distance.

There are around 7 different species of swan found around the world. The size, colour and behaviour a swan individual is largely dependent on its species and the area in which it lives. Swans live up to their reputation of being very beautiful birds. Their elongated, curved necks and white feathers stand out amongst the lakes they reside on. They are very large birds and can weigh up to 30 pounds, measuring anywhere from 56 – 62 inches in length.

Today swans are a threatened species of animal mainly due to hunting and habitat loss. Pollution (mainly water pollution) is also a major reason why swan populations are declining. Humans kept swans for many years for their meat, but today have more respect for the conservation of the swan and keep more sustainable animal food sources.

Swans that live on freshwater typically enjoy pondweed, stonewort, and wigeon grass. They also like eating insects and tadpoles. Swans that live on salt water also eat insects, along with sea arrow grass, salt marsh grass, eel grass, club rush, and green algae.
Many people like to feed swans at the park. It is recommended to feed them pieces of fresh bread because mold is quite poisonous to these animals. If you ever decide to feed a swan, remember to throw their food directly onto the water, and not on the nearby land. This keeps swans where they belong – in their safe, natural habitat.
Swans typically know their limits when it comes to eating and do not overeat.

Fun Facts about Swans
  • Swans can sleep on either land or the water. They have the option of sleeping while standing on one leg or while floating in the water.
  • After a swan has laid a set of eggs (which can take 2-3 weeks), she can sit on them for 6 weeks or longer until they hatch. Swans will hatch up to 10 eggs at one time. Baby swans are called cygnets and stay with their mother for the first 6 months of life.
  • All of the mute swans in England and Wales are owned by the Queen of England.
  • Despite popular belief, swans can actually fly. They are among the largest flying birds out there and need about 30 yards to become airborne.
  • Believe it or not, there are actually black swans as well as white swans. Black swans are native to Australia and New Zealand. They are not typically found in North America, but due to them being bred and sold for private lakes, it is possible. Black swans have the same diet as white swans and there are no notable differences between the two except their coloring.
  • Although it is true that swans are gentle and defensive animals by nature, they have their rare moments of aggression. If any intruder (such as another swan, geese, or even a human) gets too close to their nesting ground or young, they may chase them away. They may also bite – not in the typical sense considering they have no teeth, but they can still pinch the skin which can be irritable.
  • Socrates thought swans sang the most beautiful songs right before they died. This is why a last performance is sometimes called a “swan song.”
  • Male swans are called cobs; females are known as pens.
  • A swan is the emblem of St Hugh of Lincoln.
  • swan maiden in Norse and Germanic folk tales, a girl who has the power of transforming herself into a swan by means of a dress of swan's feathers or of a magic ring or chain.
  • Swan of Avon a name for Shakespeare, deriving from Ben Jonson's ‘Sweet Swan of Avon!’ in his poem ‘To the Memory of My Beloved, the Author, Mr William Shakespeare’ (1623).
  • swan-upping the action or practice of ‘upping’ or taking up swans and marking them with nicks on the beak in token of being owned by the crown or some corporation.
  • The names given to babies are signets (cygnets)

Monday, 15 October 2018


Owls are some of the most fascinating and mysterious raptors in the world. While many people know a little bit about these birds of prey, some owl facts can surprise even the most experienced birders.

There Are Two Main Types of Owls
The vast majority of the roughly 200 species of owls are so-called true owls, which possess large heads with round faces, short tails, and muted feathers with mottled patterns. The remainder, accounting for a little over a dozen species, are barn owls, which can be distinguished by their heart-shaped faces, long legs equipped with powerful talons, and moderate size. With the exception of the common barn owl—which has a worldwide distribution—the most familiar owls, at least to residents of North America and Eurasia, are the true owls.

Most Owls Are Nocturnal Hunters
Evolution has an efficient way of relegating animals to particular niches: because other carnivorous birds (like hawks and eagles) hunt during the day, most owls have adapted to hunting at night. The dark coloration of owls makes them nearly invisible to their prey—which consists of insects, small mammals, and other birds—and their wings are structured so as to beat in almost complete silence. These adaptations, combined with their enormous eyes, makes owls some of the most efficient night hunters on the planet, wolves and coyotes not excluded.

You Can Tell a Lot About an Owl by its Pellets
Owls swallow their prey whole, without biting or chewing. Most of the unfortunate animal is digested, but the parts that can't be broken down—like bones, fur, and feathers—are regurgitated as a hard lump, called a "pellet," a few hours after the owl's meal. The details are a bit revolting, but by examining its pellets in detail, researchers can identify exactly what a given owl has been eating, and when. (Baby owls don't produce pellets, since their parents nourish them with soft, regurgitated food in the nest.)

Owls Aren't as Smart as You Think
In books, movies, and TV shows, owls are invariably depicted as extremely intelligent—but the fact is that it's virtually impossible to train an owl, while birds as diverse as parrots, hawks, and even pigeons can be taught to retrieve objects and memorize simple tasks. Basically, people think owls are smart for the same reason they think all kids who wear glasses are smart: bigger-than-usual eyes convey the impression of high intelligence. (This isn't to say that owls are especially dumb, either; you need lots of brain power to successfully hunt at night.)

Owls May Have Coexisted With Dinosaurs
It has proven especially difficult to trace the evolutionary origins of owls, much less their apparent kinship with contemporary nightjars, falcons and eagles. We do know that owl-like birds like Berruornis and Ogygoptynx lived 60 million years ago, during the Paleocene epoch, which means it's entirely possible that the ultimate ancestors of owls coexisted with dinosaurs toward the end of the Cretaceous period. Technically speaking, owls are one of the most ancient groups of terrestrial birds, rivaled only by the gamebirds (i.e., chickens, turkeys and pheasants) of the order Galliformes.

Owls Don't Make Very Good Pets
Leaving aside the fact that it's illegal, in the U.S. and most other countries, for private individuals to keep owls as pets, there are any number of reasons why this isn't a good idea. For one thing, owls will only eat fresh food, meaning you have to maintain a constant supply of mice, gerbils, rabbits, and other small mammals; for another, the beaks and talons of owls are very sharp, so you'll also have to keep a ready stock of band-aids; and as if all that weren't enough, an owl can live for more than 30 years, so you'll be donning your industrial-strength gloves and flinging gerbils into its cage well into late middle age.

Owls Have Had an Outsized Impact on Human Culture
Ancient civilizations had widely divergent opinions about owls. The Greeks chose owls to represent Athena, the goddess of wisdom, but Romans were terrified of this bird, considering it a bearer of ill omens. The Aztecs and Mayans hated and feared owls as symbols of death and destruction, while many Native American tribes (including Apaches and Seminoles) scared their children with stories of owls waiting in the dark to carry them away. The Egyptians, who preceded all of these civilizations, had a kinder view of owls, believing that these birds protected the spirits of the dead as they traveled to the underworld.
While the stereotype of the “wise owl” is well established, owls can be regarded as demonic symbols or harbingers of doom. Connections to witchcraft are often made as well. Owls have also risen to prominence as icons in popular culture, such as the famous Hedwig, the snowy owl featured in the Harry Potter series.
Apart from cultural significance, owls have been used by humans in the sport of falconry. Falconer’s owls may be trained to the glove and sent off in pursuit of a wide range of quarry, such as rabbits. Generally, owls are catlike birds—nocturnal and hard to train. While some of the larger owls distinguished themselves as hunting companions in Europe, their employment as falconry decoys is more common. Hated and harassed by hawks, an owl would be tethered to a perch to lure in its enemy for capture.

Weird Relatives
Owls are often referred to as “birds of prey,” but these nocturnal hunting birds share no relation to hawks, eagles, or falcons, which are known as diurnal birds of prey. Taxonomy is a controversial and changing science, but both the Sibly-Alquist model of bird classification and alternative methods identify owls as ranking closer to kingfishers, hummingbirds, and even songbirds (like sparrows) than to hawks. Hawks and other diurnal birds of prey are relegated to the more primitive reaches of avian origins, near the cranes, herons, and other prehistoric-looking birds.
Despite appearing hawklike, owls are kissing cousins of the humble nightjars, also known as “goatsuckers.” Similarities between hawks and diurnal birds of prey are apparent, especially when an owl’s feathers are parted, revealing a large, hawklike bill, but convergent evolution is the agent of cause—not relation. Nocturnal and diurnal predatory bird orders fill similar ecological niches but avoid competition by hunting within their opposite “hours of operation.”

Some Eat Plants
Owls are among the purest of carnivores in the bird world. Occupying a fraction of the world’s species total, these night hunters won’t stoop to scavenging in most cases. However, one species is rather unique in its conquest of the night. In a freak occurrence among birds, the elf owl not only feeds on small animal prey, but adds fruits and seed parts to its diet. These owls engage in a sort of “cultivation” where they spread dung around their nest sites in a bid to attract dung beetles. These enterprising “birds of prey” seem to favor prickly pear berries and the fruits of the tasajillo cactus for the not-so-predatory portion of their diet.

Many Owls Don’t Hoot Or Screech
Owls are stereotyped for their hooting calls, but a number of species don’t hoot at all. Snowy owls of the far north produce seabird-like squeaking calls that are a far cry from a typical owl call. Small owls, such as pygmy owls make dull whistling sounds. The most flagrant example is the screech owl. It doesn’t screech at all, but gives a “bouncing” series of rapid, whistling toots. The unearthly screeching calls of juvenile great horned owls often lead to false reports of a screech owl being heard.

They Live In Cacti
In North America’s Sonoran Desert, saguaro cacti can grow over 10 meters (about 30 ft) in height and form entire forests. The excavations of specially adapted woodpeckers known as gila flickers are used as nesting sites by elf owls, which peer out from the cactus with bright, yellow eyes.
The cactus forests are also inhabited by another small owl, the ferruginous pygmy owl. This far more aggressive, bird-eating owl is slightly larger and will also nest in saguaro and organ pipe cacti. Continuing the theme, huge great horned owls often nest in the crotch of such a cactus.

  1. There are more than 150 species of owls in the world, and some counts indicate more than 220 species depending on how different owls are classified. The greatest owl diversity is found in Asia, and only 19 owl species are found in the United States and Canada.
  2. Owls are found in all different habitats and there are different owl species found on all continents except Antarctica. The greatest diversity of owl species is found in forested habitats, but these birds can be found anywhere prey is abundant, including urban and suburban areas.
  3. All owls have upright posture and forward-facing eyes that give them binocular vision, just like humans. Owls' eyes are not spheres, however, but are tubes that provide better depth perception and allow them to see prey from great distances. Up close an owl's vision is not as clear.
  4. Many owl species have asymmetrical ears that are different sizes and different heights on their heads. This gives the birds superior hearing and the ability to pinpoint where prey is located, even if they can't see it.
  5. Several owls species have ear tufts on their heads but they aren't ears at all. These tufts of feathers may indicate the bird's mood, help keep it camouflaged by mimicking branches or leaves, or be used to show aggression or dominance.
  6. The flattened facial disk of an owl funnels sound to the bird's ears and magnifies it as much as ten times to help the owl hear noises humans can't detect. Different owls have different facial disk shapes, and that shape can be useful for identifying owls.
  7. An owl's eyes are supported by bony eye sockets and they cannot turn their eyes. Instead, owls rotate their heads up to 270 degrees (135 degrees to either side), but they cannot turn their heads all the way around.
  8. An owl has three eyelids: one for blinking, one for sleeping, and one for keeping the eye clean and healthy. The third eyelid is also called the nictitating membrane, and many other birds also have it, including other raptors as well as many ducks, anhingas, and dippers.
  9. A barn owl can eat up to 1,000 mice each year, usually swallowing them whole. Many farmers use barn owl boxes and other tricks try to attract barn owls to help control rodent populations in agricultural fields.
  10. Owls are carnivorous and will eat rodents, small or medium sized mammals, nocturnal insects, fish, and other birds, including smaller owls. After digesting their food, owls regurgitate hard pellets of compressed bones, fur, teeth, feathers, and other materials they couldn't digest. Ornithologists study those pellets to learn more about an owl's diet.
  11. Owls have zygodactyl feet with two toes pointing forward and two toes pointing backward, and all their toes have sharp talons. This gives the birds a stronger, more powerful grip so they can be more effective predators. As befitting birds that hunt and kill small, skittering prey, owls are equipped with some of the strongest talons in the avian kingdom, capable of seizing and grasping squirrels, rabbits, and other squirmy mammals. One of the largest owl species, the five-pound great horned owl, can curl its talons with a force of about 300 pounds per square inch, roughly comparable to the strongest human bite. Some unusually large owls have talons comparable in size to much bigger eagles, which may explain why even desperately hungry eagles usually won't attack their smaller, big-eyed cousins.
  12. Owls have specialized feathers with fringes of varying softness that help muffle sound when they fly. Their broad wings and light bodies also make them nearly silent fliers, which helps them stalk prey more easily.
  13. For most owl species, females are larger, heavier, and more aggressive than males. If the birds are dimorphic, the female is often more richly colored than the male. No one is quite sure why, on average, female owls tend to be slightly larger than their male counterparts. One theory is that smaller males are more agile, and therefore more suited to catching prey while the females brood young; another is that, because females don't like to leave their eggs, they need a larger body mass to sustain themselves for long periods of time without eating. A third theory is less likely, but more amusing: since female owls often attack and drive off unsuitable males during mating season, the smaller size and greater agility of males prevent them from getting hurt.
  14. Not all owls hoot, and owls can make a wide range of other sounds, such as screeches, whistles, barks, growls, rattles, and hisses. During the nesting season, owl calls can often be heard up to a mile away. Female owls generally have higher-pitched voices than their mates.
  15. Not all owl species are nocturnal. How often an owl is seen during the day depends on the seasonal amount of daylight and darkness, food supplies, and habitat. In times of stress or when food is low, owls may hunt at any time, just to get enough food.
  16. Most owls do not migrate but they can be nomadic in searching for the best food sources. Some species, such as the snowy owl, have regular irruptions and will sometimes appear unexpectedly far outside their regular range.
  17. A group of owls is called a parliament, wisdom, bazaar, or study. Baby owls are called owlets.
  18. Owls have been found in the fossil record up to 58 million years ago. The largest recorded owl fossil, Orinmegalonyx oteroi, stood about three feet tall.
  19. Owls have long been cultural symbols and they have been found in cave paintings in France, in Egyptian hieroglyphics, and even in Mayan art. Today, owl superstitions and legends associate the birds with bad luck, death, and stealing souls in many cultures.
  20. The biggest modern threats to owls are habitat loss, pesticides that poison the birds and their food supplies, and human persecution because of negative superstitions. Vehicle collisions, wire fences, and even well-meaning birders can also be hazardous to owls.
  21. Many owl species have asymmetrical ears. When located at different heights on the owl’s head, their ears are able to pinpoint the location of sounds in multiple dimensions. Ready, aim, strike.
  22. A group of owls is called a parliament. This originates from C.S. Lewis’ description of a meeting of owls in The Chronicles of Narnia.
  23. Owls hunt other owls. Great Horned Owls are the top predator of the smaller Barred Owl.
  24. The tiniest owl in the world is the Elf Owl, which is 5 - 6 inches tall and weighs about 1 ½ ounces. The largest North American owl, in appearance, is the Great Gray Owl, which is up to 32 inches tall.
  25. The Northern Hawk Owl can detect—primarily by sight—a vole to eat up to a half a mile away.
  26. In fat years when mice are plentiful, usually monogamous Boreal Owls are apt to be promiscuous. Because easy prey means less work for parents feeding their young, males have been caught mating with up to three females, while females have been seen with at least one beau on the side.
  27. Barn Owls swallow their prey whole—skin, bones, and all—and they eat up to 1,000 mice each year.
  28. Northern Saw-whet Owls can travel long distances over large bodies of water. One showed up 70 miles from shore near Montauk, New York.

Sunday, 14 October 2018

Rain Water Facts

  • Rain falls from clouds in the sky in the form of water droplets, this is called precipitation.
  • Water can also fall from the sky in the form of hail, sleet or snow.
  • Rain is an important part of the water cycle.
  • Rain occurs on other planets in our Solar System but it is different to the rain we experience here on Earth. For example, rain on Venus is made of sulfuric acid and due to the intense heat it evaporates before it even reaches the surface!
  • Weather radar is used to detect and monitor rain.
  • Rain gauges are use to measure the amount of rain over a certain period of time. Try making your own rain gauge.
  • The highest amount of rainfall ever recorded in 24 hours is 182.5 centimetres (71.9 inches) in Foc-Foc, La Réunion. This occurred during tropical cyclone Denise on January 8, 1966.
  • The highest amount of rainfall ever recorded in one year is 25.4 meters (1000 inches) in Cherrapunji, India.
  • Antarctica is the driest continent on Earth.
  • Heavy rain can cause flooding and landslides.
  • Rain allows us to create electricity through hydropower.
  • Plants need water in order to survive, they receive much of this water from rain.
  • Forests that experience high levels of rainfall are called rainforests.
  • Rain with high levels of acid (a low pH) is called acid rain. Caused by the release of sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides into the air (often from factories and power stations), it can be harmful to plants and animals.
  • The umbrella was orginally made to protect from the sun's heat.
  • Rain drops can fall at speeds of about 22 miles an hour – where a snowflake falls about 2-4 mph, taking about an hour to hit the ground.
  • Rain starts off as ice or snow crystals at cloud level. A droplet of water will stay in Earth’s atmosphere for around 10 days.
  • Raindrops fall at a speed of 5 to 18 miles per hour depending on the size of the raindrops.
  • Most raindrops are very tiny—no more than ¼ inch in diameter.
  • Rain is also used to create electricity. We call this hydroelectricity or hydropower.
  • More rain falls in tropical places than in any other type of climate.
  • Desserts get less rain than any other type of climate except the continent of Antarctica. It is the driest continent on Earth.
  • Rain drops do not fall in a tear drop shape, they originally fall in the shave of a flat oval.
  • Rain that freezes before it hits the ground is known as frozen rain.
  • Rain drops range in size from 0.02 inches to about .031 inches. About an inch of rain water is equal to about 15 inches of dry snow.

Saturday, 13 October 2018


The fragrant clusters of flowers produced by lilac trees or bushes offer gardeners proof that spring has arrived. A native of Eastern Europe and Asia, lilacs grow in USDA hardiness zones 2 to 7. The colonists brought them to America in the 17th century. The trees thrive for decades with proper care, offering gardens and landscapes plenty of color and fragrance in the spring.
Various experts place the Lilacs’ origins in Asia, North Africa, southeast Europe, and the Himalayas. One of the first Common Lilacs, Syringa vulgaris, is believed to have been discovered by a plant researcher in Banat, Romania, where they were growing in the mountains on natural limestone, then, taken to France where it gained huge popularity in Paris.
The genus Syringa is named after Syrinx, an Arcadian virgin nymph who was turned into water-reeds in a desperate attempt to flee the lusty woodland god, Pan. Finding himself clutching only reeds rather than the beautiful naiad, Pan sighed and his breath produced a sound from the reeds, which he subsequently bound together to form the first panpipes; today, the nymph Syrinx has spawned the genus classifying plants whose stems can be used to make tubes. Although Lilac twigs are not hollow, they have a soft inner pulp that is easily hollowed out to make flutes or pipe stems.
Lilacs come in 15 color varieties: Purple and white, plus 13 different shades of purples and crèmes.
Typical vase life for Lilacs is only two to three days, but with proper handling, these flowers can last up to 10 days.

Lilac trees range from 5 to 30 feet tall. The trees thrive in sunny locations protected from cold, strong winds. The trees sport pale green leaves with clusters of blossoms appearing in the spring. Flowering varies between mid-spring to early summer and, unfortunately, normally only lasts about three weeks or so, depending on the species and the weather (the warmer the spring, the earlier the blooms). Blossoms come in shades of purple, lavender, blue, pink, white or magenta, depending on the variety. Most of the blossoms produce a strong fragrance that smells best on a warm, sunny afternoon when the flowers open up completely. Shades vary depending on weather (hot versus cool and dry versus wet), year, soil, environment and overall location differences. With the exception of the Manchurian lilac, most lilac trees offer little fall interest.
Lilacs can vary in shape and/or form. Some may be rounded, vase-like, tall and spreading, tall and straight or a combination of these shapes. Lilacs have pyramidal clusters of blossoms with both single and double varieties - all with glossy green leaves.

More than 200 lilac cultivars exist, giving gardeners plenty to choose from. The European common lilac (Syringa vulgaris), also known as the old-fashioned lilac, features purple or white flowers on a hardy, drought-tolerant tree. For year-round interest, the Manchurian lilac (Syringa patula) offers fragrant, purplish-blue flowers. In the fall, the Manchurian lilac’s leaves turn reddish-brown. For early-blooming lilacs, Hyacinthiflora lilacs (S. vulgaris x S. oblata) do well in areas where frost seldom occurs in May. The fragrant flowers bloom 7 to 14 days earlier than most other lilacs.

Lilac trees grow best with at least six hours of sun per day. They thrive if given protection from strong winds; otherwise, the flower buds may get damaged in high winds, reducing the number of blooms appearing on the tree. Some gardeners use the trees as single specimens. Others use the trees to create hedges planted 18 to 24 inches apart. A layer of mulch helps conserve moisture.

During the months of June and July, lilac trees grow better with an extra inch of water each week since this helps set the flower buds for the following year. Once August arrives, the watering may slow down, since the plant needs to harden off for the winter. New lilac trees require no pruning during the first five years or until they reach 6 to 8 feet tall. After that, the trees benefit from a pruning after the flowers fade.

Lilac borers cause problems on lilac trees east of the Rocky Mountains. Borers are moths that use lilac trunks and branches to lay their eggs in late spring. One way to avoid borers and other pests involves providing the tree with adequate watering and soil nutrients. This helps reduce stress on the tree, making it less susceptible to pests.

  1. Lilacs only flower for about three weeks in the spring.
  2. Some varieties, like the Josee or the Boomerang, will bloom several times during the year.
  3. Thomas Jefferson loved lilacs — and wrote about them in his gardening book.
  4. Lilacs were grown in America's first botanical gardens. Both George Washington and Thomas Jefferson grew them in their gardens. Lilac bushes can live for hundreds of years, so who knows, a bush planted way back when may actually still be around.
  5. Some varieties of lilac bushes can survive temperatures down to -60°F.
  6. Want a big lilac bush? Prune them less often. (But make sure to trim them at least once a year.) You prune Lilacs immediately after the enjoyment of the fragrant blossoms in the late Spring/early Summer.
  7. In addition to the cultivated species of Lilacs, there are many more hybrids, and over 1,000 total varieties of Lilac bushes (along with a few varieties of actual trees).
  8. Scientific name: Syringa vulgaris (sir-IN-ga vul-GAH-ris)
  9. Lilacs belong to the olive family, Oleaceae.
  10. Syringa (Lilac) is a genus of about 20 – 25 cultivated species of flowering plants in the olive family (Oleaceae).
  11. Syringa is the proper generic name of the Lilac, the common variety being syringa vulgaris.
  12. The flowers are edible.
  13. In the language of flowers, purple lilacs are the symbol of first love.
  14. White lilacs symbolize youthful innocence.
  15. In Greece, Lebanon and Cyrus, the lilac is a symbol of Easter
  16. The lilac is the state flower of New Hampshire, USA
  17. There are annual lilac festivals in North America cities.
  18. Aside from Roses, there is no flower as beautiful and aromatic as Lilacs. Of the two, Lilacs have a stronger, more intoxicating scent which carries quite a distance.
  19. The term “Lilac tree” can be mistakenly attached to any of the many varieties of Lilac bushes. Lilac shrubs/bushes grow from six to twenty feet tall. True Lilac trees, like the Peking tree Lilac and the Japanese tree Lilac, both from Asia, may reach heights over 30 feet.
  20. It is the cultivar and species of Lilac bush which affects the fragrance, NOT the flower’s color.
  21. Although Lilacs display flowers among the most delicate of the ornamentals, the plants are among the hardiest.
  22. Lilacs make excellent cut flowers. Flowers should be harvested as soon as they start to open. They are often used to add colour, texture and fragrance to arrangements.
  23. They are especially popular in hand- tied bridal bouquets.
  24. The purple lilacs have the strongest scent compared to other colours.
  25. Lilacs are commonly used in soaps, perfumes and other cosmetics.
  26. Wood from the lilac tree is among the densest and can be used to make musical instruments, knife handles and more.
  27. The lilac is known as the "Queen of Shrubs". Its beauty certainly warrants this title.
  28. The name Lilac: comes from the Persian word "lilaq", which means flower.
  29. This story is from Greek mythology: It's about a beautiful nymph named Syringa (lilac's botanical name). "Pan", the god of the forests and fields, was captivated by Syringa's beauty. Pan chased Syringa through the forests. Syringa was frightened by Pan's affections. Syringa escaped Pan by turning herself into a lilac bush.
  30. Westminster Abbey was decked out with Lilacs and other types of flowering shrubs, such as azaleas, for the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton in April 2011.
  31. The most well-known grown Lilac is the pure white ‘Madamde Florent Stepman’, which was named after the wife of the first person to grow it.

Friday, 12 October 2018


For informational use only

Scientific Name(s)
Lavandula angustifolia, Lavandula officinalis, Lavandula luisieri, Lavandula stoechas, Lavandula dentate, Lavandula latifolia, Lavandula pubescens
Common Name(s)
Lavender also is known as aspic, common lavender, English lavender, garden lavender, lavandin (usually refers to particular hybrids), pink lavender, spike lavender, true lavender, and white lavender.

Lavender is an herb native to northern Africa and the mountainous regions of the Mediterranean.
Originating from southern Europe and parts of Africa, Asia, and India, many ancient and medieval cultures relied on the herb not just for its signature scent but also its pain relieving and sedative properties.
Lavender is also grown for the production of its essential oil, which comes from the distillation of the flower spikes of certain lavender species.
Lavender is one of the most highly-appreciated plants in the world because of its unique color and fragrance.
People have used lavender in the production of soaps or shampoos in order to improve their body smell.
For over 2,500 years, lavender essential oil uses or the flower itself has been documented in medicinal and religious uses, from ancient texts through modern movements. Beginning with Egyptian mummification, it moved to Roman bathhouses, fragrance, and cooking.
In modern times, lavender essential oil has been credited as the healing solution that Gattefosse instinctively covered his burned arm with, igniting a renewed interest in essential oils and inspiring the term aromatherapy. That lavender has stood the test of time, inspiring interest in so many eras, cultures, and generations, is a testament to the varied and effective capabilities it carries.
The origin of its name is “lavare” which is “to wash” in Latin.
People gave it this name because one of the most common applications of lavender was to purify their body and spirit.
The areas which this plant is native to are mountainous regions in the Mediterranean.
Nowadays, its cultivation is very popular in southern Europe and the United States.
In general, people extract the oil from lavender flowers or the whole plant.
This type of essential oil has various applications in the medicinal world.
The oil has cosmetic uses, and it is believed to have some medicinal uses.
Lavender essential oil, in contrast to the plant form, is toxic when swallowed.
Lavender is not approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and should not be taken in place of approved and prescribed medicines.

Where to Buy Lavender (& How to Grow It)
It’s easy to grow in your own backyard and a cinch to maintain and harvest.
Given its native regions, lavender grows best where the winter is mild and the summers are hot and dry, but it’s a forgiving plant. Visit a local nursery to find the variety best suited for your area. (Keep in mind different varieties have different blooming seasons, too.)
Lavender generally needs little water or fertilization and even grows well in pots. It’s important though that it is located in a sunny spot (6+ hours) and have good drainage. (In fact, add gravel to the potting soil if potting.)
Our plants have done well for years with little care or maintenance other than pruning them back each fall. I recommend picking a sunny spot by a walkway or door to enjoy its amazing scent every time you walk by.

Lavender can be distilled into an essential oil, and has a range of medical applications.
The herb is highly regarded for skin and beauty and is commonly used in fragrances and shampoos to help purify the skin. It can be purchased over-the-counter (OTC) from drugstores, and some versions are used to add flavor to baked goods and foods.
There are also many medicinal properties associated with lavender.

Lavender oil is believed to have antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties, which can help to heal minor burns and bug bites.
Research suggests that it may be useful for treating anxiety, insomnia, depression, and restlessness.
Some studies suggest that consuming lavender as a tea can help digestive issues such as vomiting, nausea, intestinal gas, upset stomach, and abdominal swelling.
In addition to helping with digestive problems, lavender is used to help relieve pain from headaches, sprains, toothaches, and sores. It can also be used to prevent hair loss.

Fungal infections
A study published in the Journal of Medical Microbiology found that lavender oil could be effective in combating antifungal-resistant infections.
The researchers found that the oil was lethal to a range of strains that can cause disease in the skin.
In the study, the essential oils distilled from the Lavandula genus of the lavender plant seemed to work by destroying the membranes of fungal cells.
The study showed that Lavandula oil is potent and demonstrates antifungal activity on a wide spectrum.

Wound healing
A study published in the journal Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine compared the effects of several treatments for wound healing.
The researchers compared the effects of transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS), saline solution, povidone-iodine, and lavender oil. These were applied to laboratory rats.
The study authors noted that wounds closed faster in the TENS and lavender oil groups than the control groups. These findings suggest that lavender has an acceleratory effect on wound healing.
Studies (and much anecdotal experience) show that lavender reduces pain and itching from bug bites, bee stings, and even burns. In fact one 2011 study examined the benefits of lavender in healing episiotomies and another 2013 study showed lavender aromatherapy relieved pain after c-section.
So you're a mosquito magnet? Get the itch out with lavender essential oil. "It's a natural anti-inflammatory, so it helps reduce itching, swelling, and redness," explains Naila Malik, MD, a Texas-based dermatologist. Dab a drop or two on the area and wait about 15 minutes for it to seep in (but stop if skin becomes more irritated). Apply as needed every six to eight hours for the next 24 hours.

Hair Loss/Growth
Lavender is possibly effective for treating alopecia areata. This is a condition in which hair is lost from some or all areas of the body.
Research shows that lavender can promote hair growth by up to 44 percent after 7 months of treatment.
A 2016 study on mice showed lavender is an effective proponent of hair growth and significantly increased the number and health of hair follicles when applied in proper dilution daily for a period of 4 weeks. The properties make it great for healthy, shiny hair in general.

Anxiety disorder and related conditions
Lavender scents have been shown to reduce anxiety before a dental appointment.
A review article in the International Journal of Psychiatry in Clinical Practice evaluates how effective Silexan might be for patients with different anxiety disorders. Silexan is a lavender-oil preparation available in 80-milligram (mg) gelatine capsules.
The team found that Silexan had an anxiolytic, or anxiety-reducing, effect on patients with generalized or subsyndromal anxiety within 2 weeks.
Researchers have also found that lavender scent may help anxious dental patients.
The investigators measured the dental anxiety levels of 340 adult patients during their wait at the dentist's waiting room for their appointment.
Half the patients were exposed to lavender scent, while the other half were not.
The team found that those exposed to lavender scent reported lower levels of anxiety compared to the other patients. The calming effect of lavender was present regardless of the type of scheduled dental appointment.
Kritsidima, who conducted the study, concluded:
"Our findings suggest that lavender could certainly be used as an effective 'on-the-spot' anxiety reduction in dentists' waiting rooms."
Dr. M. Kritsidima, study author
Lavender does not seem to impact anxiety about future dental visits. However, it has been shown to provide a sense of calm while attending a treatment.
On a similar note, many studies show interesting applications for lavender for memory, mood, and overall cognitive function. Just the odor of lavender seemed to help various test groups stay relaxed and focused when asked to do various stressful tasks, or improved their ability to recover feelings of wellbeing after exposure to stress.
Researchers continue to examine the possibilities for lavender in the treatment of dementia, anxiety, depression, and various neurological disorders.

Post-tonsillectomy pain in children
Lavender oil has been shown to reduce the amount of painkilling medicine required after a tonsillectomy.
A team of researchers at the Isfahan University of Medical Sciences, Iran, carried out a study to determine whether aromatherapy with Lavandula angustifolia essential oil might reduce symptoms of pain in children after the removal of the tonsils.
The study included 48 children aged 6 to 12 years. They were randomly separated into two groups of 24 participants. One group took painkillers alongside lavender, and the other took only painkillers.
The frequency of each child's acetaminophen use and nocturnal awakening due to pain was monitored for 3 days after surgery. Pain intensity was also measured. Acetaminophen is also known as Tylenol or paracetamol, and the group using lavender oil was shown to use acetaminophens less frequently.
However, there was no significant difference in how often they woke up at night or their perceptions of pain intensity.
Due to the small sample size, more research is required to fully confirm lavender oil as an effective painkiller.

Premenstrual emotional symptoms
Researchers have also studied whether lavender might help to alleviate premenstrual emotional symptoms.
Many women of reproductive age experience a range of symptoms in the premenstrual phase, commonly known as premenstrual syndrome (PMS).
Even though PMS is common, no single treatment is universally recognized as effective. As a result, many women turn to alternative therapies, such as aromatherapy.
This crossover study involved 17 women, aged on average 20.6 years, with mild-to-moderate premenstrual symptoms. The participants spent one menstrual cycle with no lavender aromatherapy treatment, and another undergoing lavender aromatherapy.
The study concluded that lavender aromatherapy could alleviate premenstrual emotional symptoms.

Healthy up your meal
Add lavender's phytonutrients (good-for-you plant compounds) to any meal by using herbes de Provence (available at grocery stores). Sprinkle the lavender-based spice blend onto sauteed or grilled meats, poultry, vegetables, and even whole-grain pilafs (barley, couscous, brown rice), Dr. Gerbstadt suggests.

Nutrition Facts
There are many outstanding points in lavender nutrition facts.
The amount of calories you get from lavender is low as there are about 49 calories per 100 grams of lavender.
And so is the amount of fat.
Besides, when it comes to lavender nutrition, it is hard to skip abundant amounts of vitamins and minerals.
For example, its content of vitamin A is beneficial for the eyes.
Additionally, there is about 215 mg of calcium in 100 gram of lavender which is advantageous for many body parts.
Lavender also contains caffeic acid which has great effects on the cancer prevention.

What does lavender not treat?
There is insufficient evidence to rate lavender's effectiveness for treating:
  • depression
  • colic in infants
  • constipation
  • nausea and vomiting
  • migraines
  • otitis, or ear infection
  • high blood pressure
  • menstrual pain
  • eczema
  • cancer-related pain
  • dementia
  • lice
One study found that lavender fragrance could have a beneficial effect on insomnia and depression in female college students. However, the authors highlighted that "repeated studies are needed to confirm effective proportions of lavender oil and carrier oil for insomnia and depression."
The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved lavender for medicinal use. It is sold as a supplement only and should not replace any prescribed course of treatment.
If you choose to use this essential oil, the FDA does not monitor these products. There may be concerns about purity, safety, or quality. Only purchase essential oils from reputable companies.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) warn people to be cautious when combining lavender with the following:
  • drugs that induce sleepiness, such as benzodiazepines, barbiturates, and Ambien
  • drugs to reduce blood pressure, such as captopril, enalapril, and losartan
If you are already taking the above, seek medical advice before adding lavender to your drug regimen.

A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) revealed that repeated use of lavender oil on the skin might trigger prepubertal gynecomastia, a condition that causes enlarged breast tissue in boys before puberty.
The safety of taking lavender during pregnancy or while breast-feeding has also not been confirmed.
Discuss any use of essential oils, herbs, or supplements with your doctor if you are pregnant or breast-feeding.
As lavender is thought to slow down the central nervous system, doctors advise patients to stop using lavender at least 2 weeks before surgery.

What Is Lavender Oil?
The lavender plant is known for its fragrant scent, which has been used for potpourri and perfumes for many years. It’s Latin name, Lavare, means “to wash”, coming from it’s fresh aroma. The lavender oil production process begins with the extraction from the flowers of the lavender plant. A steam distillation is generally the method that is used to produce the oil from the flower. It is commonly found in a variety of items, such as gels, lotion and soaps.
Lavender is one of the most versatile oils, and there are many awesome benefits to using lavender oil with its sweet, flowery aroma. As I’ve become more and more used to essential oils in my daily life, I’m always looking at new and improved ways to integrate them into my daily routines.
NOTE that lavender essential oil is a bit of an exception when it comes to applying it directly onto your skin. Usually, I always recommend diluting essential oils before application to the skin. Lavender though you can generally use directly on your skin.

Lavender Oil Properties:
  • Antidepressant
  • Analgesic
  • Antiseptic
  • Cicatrizant
  • Expectorant
  • Nervine
  • Vulnerary

Benefits of Lavender Oil:
  1. It Helps You Relax
  2. Lavender Oil Is Good For Healthy Skin
  3. It Relieves Joint Pain and Sore Muscles
  4. Disinfects Cuts, Bruises, and Light Burns
  5. Repels Insects and Soothes Insect Bites
  6. Naturally Cleans
  7. Relieves Respiratory Disorders
  8. Smells Great As A Perfume
  9. Prevent Hair Loss
  10. It Alleviates Premenstrual Emotional Symptoms
Thanks to its linalool and linalyl acetate components (which are present even when diffusing), lavender has protective effects shown to:
  • Stabilize mood
  • Improve sleep
  • Soothe nerves
  • Work as an expectorant
  • Balance blood sugar
  • Kill bacteria
  • Relieve pain
  • Speed wound healing

1. Calming
Rub 2-3 drops of lavender oil in your cupped palms, then use the inhalation method to draw the scent all the way into your amygdala gland (the emotional warehouse) in your brain to calm the mind. Then, rub on the feet, temples, wrists (or anywhere) for an immediate calming effect on the body. Great for use in crowded areas like planes or subways to carve out your own personal oasis.
2. Sleep aid
Again, use the cupping and inhalation method. Then, rub a drop of Lavender oil on your palms and smooth on your pillow to help you sleep.
It is well known for its ability to relax the mind and improve quality of sleep. In one 2006 study, sleep-deprived college students inhaled either lavender or a placebo. Those who used lavender slept more soundly and felt more refreshed upon waking up.
More study is needed to determine whether it is safe to use during breastfeeding (it’s generally not recommended at this time), but it’s exciting to see emerging research on how lavender might help women during the crucial postpartum time.
3. Bee sting / Insect bite
Put a drop of Lavender oil on a bee sting or insect bite to stop itching reduce swelling.
4. Minor burn
Put 2-3 drops Lavender oil on a minor burn to decrease pain. I recently did this after I spilled scorching hot tea on my hand at Starbucks and luckily had my lavender with me. Result: NO redness, swelling or pain. NO sign of any burn. Lavender works wonders!
5. Cuts
Drop Lavender oil on cut to stop bleeding, clean wound, and kill bacteria.
6. Eczema / Dermatitis
Mix several drops of Lavender oil with a nut or vegetable mixing oil (coconut, sesame, etc) and use topically on eczema and dermatitis. I have a dear friend who suffers from severe eczema and swears by this.
7. Nausea or motion sickness
To alleviate the symptoms of motion sickness, place a drop of Lavender oil on end of tongue, behind the ears or around the navel.
8. Nosebleed
To stop a nosebleed, put a drop of lavender oil on a tissue and wrap it around a small chip of ice. Push the tissue covered ice chip up under the middle of the top lip to the base of the nose and hold as long as comfortable or until the bleeding stops (do not freeze the lip or gum).
9. Dry or chapped skin
Rub lavender oil on dry or chapped skin.
Due to its anti-inflammatory effects and ability to scavenge free radicals, lavender has a place in skin care. As is so common in the health world, controversy surrounds the subject of whether it is a skin irritant or a skin protectant, but this article by Robert Tisserand explains the reasons why its benefits outweigh any risks. (Risks are slight, in his informed opinion).
Give lavender a try in your DIY beauty routine. Use a quality oil and the proper dilution. If there’s any concern about sensitive skin, try a test run on a small spot in the inner elbow.
10. Chapped or sunburned lips
Rub a drop of lavender oil on chapped or sunburned lips.
11. Hay fever.
Rub a drop of lavender oil between your palms and inhale deeply to help alleviate the symptoms of hay fever.
12. Dandruff.
Rub several drops of lavender oil into the scalp to help eliminate dandruff.
"Lavender oil can help scalp conditions," says Francesca Fusco, MD, a New York City-based dermatologist. To make Dr. Fusco's gentle dandruff remedy: Wet hair with warm water and towel dry. Next, grab a mug and mix 15 drops of lavender essential oil (available at drugstore.com) in 2 tablespoons olive or almond oil. Microwave for about 10 seconds or until it feels warm. Massage the oil into your scalp, pop on a shower cap, let set for an hour, then shampoo out. "It may take several treatments to see benefits," Dr. Fusco notes.
13. Cold sores.
Put a drop of lavender oil on a cold sore.
***BONUS: Flavor booster!
Add a few drops of lavender to any recipe you want to enhance. Favorites: add to your water or tea (especially sparkling!), brownies, bars, cookies, dessert recipes, raw chocolate or salad dressings. Enjoy!

Lavender Bath
Excellent for aching muscles, relaxation, stress relief. Add 6-8 drops Lavender essential oil after running the water and vigorously agitate water. Add the drops to a capful of milk or Epsom salts and then put in the bath as this helps to disperse the oils through out the water. This is a great way to receive the benefits of Lavender oil. Lie back and enjoy!

Lavender Shower
After wetting your hair, add 3 drops Lavender oil to a capful of water and tip onto your head. Stand under running water and allow oils to rinse off. Cup your hands over your face and breathe in the vapours. Add oils when shampooing your hair and rinse off as normal.

Lavender Vaporisation
Fill the top dish of an 'oil burner' or 'vaporiser' with water and add 6-8 drops of Lavender oil. Place a lit tea light candle in the space provided underneath the dish. This is a very good way to receive the benefits of the Lavender oil. Use in the bedroom or living room. Vaporisation is especially good to use when you have a cold or feel unwell. Keep burner away from draughts and open windows. Hint: use warm water in the dish for quicker results.

Lavender Massage
This is a particularly effective way to apply the oils when you have tight and sore muscles or have sustained an injury. The oils will be absorbed quickly into the blood stream, thus assisting the body and mind. NEVER massage UNDILUTED oils, always use a good quality vegetable or carrier oil. Add 5 drops of Lavender oil per 10ml of vegetable oil. Use 1-2 drops for babies and the elderly. Only use lavender with babies.

Lavender Tissues/Handkerchief
Good for instant relief from flu, sinusitis and anxiety. Use 1-3 drops Lavender oil and inhale immediately as required.

Lavender Steam Inhalation
Great for colds and flu or as part of a skin/careacne regime. Add 4-6 drops to a bowl of hot water. Place a towel over your head and breathe in the vapour. Keep your eyes shut. Continue to breathe deeply for a few minutes, occasionally removing the towel and your head from the bowl.

Lavender Hand/Foot Bath
Great for tired feet, fatigue or sore/dry hands. Add 4-6 drops Lavender oil to a large bowl of warm water and soak for approx 10 minutes. Then apply a Lavender lotion for added benefits.

Lavender Compress
In a bowl or warm water add 6-8 drops Lavender oil and swirl around. Soak a cloth then gently squeeze out and apply to area of your body you wish to treat. Use cold water for treating new muscular injuries or sprains.

Lavender direct for Burns
After running cold water on the burn for approx 10 minutes, put a few drops of neat lavender oil onto the burnt area (including sunburn). This will greatly assist the healing process. ONLY use lavender. Remember serious burns must be seen to by a doctor.

Dried Herb Uses:
  • In a relaxing herbal tea – Lavender is too strong to be used by itself as a tea, but mixed with mint leaves it makes a soothing herbal tea. I often add chamomile too. Steep all in hot (not boiling water) for a few minutes and add honey if desired. Ahhh …
  • As a dandruff remedy – Make an extra strong batch of tea, let it cool, and use as a scalp rinse to remedy dandruff. This cooled tea recipe also doubles as an after-sun spray.
  • In a tincture – Used for medicinal purposes since ancient times, a tincture can promote relaxation and sleep.
  • Inside a pillow or mask – Add the dried flowers to homemade buckwheat pillows or sleep masks to help promote relaxing sleep.
  • In the dryer – I sew the dried flowers into small satchels and use them in place of dryer sheets in the dryer. (Great project for kids!)
  • For infused vinegar – Infuse vinegar with the dried flowers for use in cooking or as a skin toner (diluted).
  • As an air freshener – Simmer the dried herb in a pot of water with some citrus peels for a natural air freshener!
  • As a face scrub – The dried flowers and oatmeal makes for a gentle, fragrant face scrub.
  • In cooking! – It’s not so strange! Lavender flowers actually feature in this classic herbes de Provence spice blend.

Essential Oil Uses:
  • Diffusing before bed – Put a few drops in an essential oil diffuser before bed to help the house wind down and get ready to sleep
  • To sooth sunburns or other burns – My absolute favorite burn remedy is this Lavender Honey Burn Salve. In a pinch, add a few drops of the essential oil to a bottle of cool water and spray on burns to offer relief.
  • In the bath – These DIY Lavender-Mint Bath Salts are divine after a long day and will help relax sore muscles.
  • For headaches – Smelling lavender and peppermint oils helps headaches. Simply take a whiff of essential oil or keep this Headache Relief Roll-On handy.
  • In homemade bug spray
  • In beauty recipes – Add a few drops of the essential oil make a relaxing homemade lotion or lotion bar, or even a whipped body butter.
  • For acne and skin irritations
  • In a hair growth serum

Thursday, 11 October 2018


Fast Facts
  1. Vultures are incredibly diverse with over 20 species found across the world.
  2. Vultures are found on every continent except Australia and Antarctica.
  3. Vultures only lay one egg every year or so.
  4. A vulture can eat up to 1 kilogram (about 2 pounds) in a single meal (that’s over 10% of their body weight).
  5. The highest flying bird is the Ruppell’s vulture; one was injested by a jet at 37,000 feet.
  6. Nearly all vultures in India have died due to eating corpses of animals recently treated with the drug diclofenac. In a butterfly effect, there is now a major rabies problem, with an annual cost of US$26 billion per year.
  7. Vultures can’t sweat, so they pee on their legs to cool off.
  8. A single living vulture is valued at $11,000 based on the ecosystem services they provide by ridding the environment of carcasses that would otherwise spread diseases and cause economic consequences.
  9. The reason Kevin Carter waited 20 minutes before taking his controversial Pulitzer Prize-winning photo of the starving Sudanese child is that he was waiting for the vulture to spread its wings. It didn’t in the end, so he took the photo and moved on.
  10. In Asia, some vultures are almost extinct and have declined by 99% in just 15 years.
  11. Vultures have huge ranges with a single individual using all of Kenya, northern Tanzania, and even going into Ethiopia and Sudan.
  12. All vultures eat carrion or dead animals for at least part of their diet.
  13. Vultures consume up to 70% of all the available meat in East Africa.
  14. In ancient Egypt, vultures were used as a symbol of femininity.
  15. Some cultures use vultures to dispose of human corpses, leaving bodies out on pillars to be fed upon by the vultures.
  16. Vultures and Condors are not actually closely related, but superficially similar only due to convergent evolution.
  17. In Germany, police have trained turkey vultures to help them finding missing people.
  18. Because many species of vultures are social, vultures are highly effected by poisoning and environmental contaminants and over a hundred birds can be killed at just one poisoned carcass.
  19. In many countries, people have set up vulture restaurants or feeding sites where carcasses can be left out for vultures. These restaurants help to ensure that vultures have enough food and can help them to avoid contaminated carcasses. In South Africa these are even visited by tourists who enjoy watching the vultures feed.
  20. Vultures are the ultimate recyclers – able to strip a carcass in just a few hours, they keep our environment clean and disease free.
  21. Turkey vultures have the best smell of nearly any animal but African vultures rely solely on eyesight to find carrion.
  22. Egyptian vultures eat ostrich eggs and actually use rocks or sticks to crack their thick shells.
  23. There are 23 vulture species in the world, and at least one type of vulture is found on every continent except Australia and Antarctica. These are relatively adaptable birds found in a range of habitats, including suburbs, but even with that adaptability, 14 species are considered either threatened or endangered.
  24. Vulture species are divided into New World (the Americas and Caribbean) and Old World (Europe, Asia and Africa) groups depending on their ranges. There are more vulture species in the Old World, and they are not closely related to New World vultures. The two groups are often considered together, however, because they fill a similar ecological niche. New World vultures may be more closely related to storks than to other raptors.
  25. Unlike many raptors, vultures are relatively social and often feed, fly or roost in large flocks. A group of vultures is called a committee, venue or volt. In flight, a flock of vultures is a kettle, and when the birds are feeding together at a carcass, the group is called a wake.
  26. Vultures are carnivorous and eat carrion almost exclusively. They prefer fresh meat but are able to consume carcasses that may have rotted so much that the meat can be toxic to other animals. This gives vultures a unique and important ecological role because they help prevent the spread of diseases from old, rotting corpses.
  27. Vultures have excellent senses of sight and smell to help them locate food, and they can find a dead animal from a mile or more away. Because of this, vultures often have large territories and spend a lot of time soaring to locate their next meal. Vultures eat as much as they can at one meal. They never know when the next meal will come.
  28. It is a myth that vultures circle dying animals waiting to feed. These birds are powerful fliers and soar on thermals while they look for food, but they cannot sense when an animal is dying. When they locate a carcass by smell, sight or the sound of other birds feeding, they approach it quickly before other predators find it.
  29. Vultures have bare heads and often bare necks so that when they feed on rotting carcasses, bacteria and other parasites cannot burrow into their feathers to cause infections. This allows the birds to stay healthier while feeding on material that would easily infect other animals.
  30. Vultures have relatively weak legs and feet with blunt talons, though they do have powerful bills. If a carcass is too stiff for them to rip open, they will wait for another predator to open the flesh before they feed. This is why vultures are often seen with other carrion-eating animals.
  31. A vulture’s stomach acid is significantly stronger and more corrosive than that of other animals or birds. This allows these scavengers to feed on rotting carcasses that may be infected with dangerous bacteria, because the acid will kill that bacteria so it does not threaten the vulture.
  32. While vultures eat mostly dead animals, they are capable of attacking and will often prey on extremely sick, wounded or infirm prey. This is more common if food has been scarce and there are no carcasses nearby.
  33. It is a myth that vultures prey on healthy livestock, but they are still regularly persecuted by farmers and ranchers who believe the birds to be a threat to their animals. They may, however, prey on dead livestock and afterbirth or stillborn animals in breeding herds, though these incidents are rare.
  34. Because vultures have weak feet and legs, they do not carry prey back to their chicks. Instead, they will gorge at a carcass and regurgitate food from their crop to feed their young.
  35. Vultures urinate on their legs and feet to cool off on hot days, a process called urohydrosis. Their urine also helps kill any bacteria or parasites they’ve picked up from walking through carcasses or perching on dead animals.
  36. The Andean condor, found in South America, has the largest wingspan of any vulture in the world, with a spread of 10-11 feet when the bird extends its wings.
  37. The crow-sized hooded vulture is the smallest of these birds with a wingspan of only five feet. It is found sub-Saharan Africa.
  38. When threatened, vultures vomit to lighten their body weight so they can escape more easily into flight. Vomiting also serves as a defense mechanism to deter predators that may be threatening the birds.
  39. New World vultures lack a syrinx and are nearly silent. They do not have songs, and their typical vocalizations are limited to grunts, hisses, bill clacks and similar sounds that don't require complex vocal cords.
  40. Vultures face many threats that are endangering their populations. Poisoning is the biggest threat to vultures, primarily from toxins or lead in the carcasses they eat. Other hazards include car collisions as they feed on road kill and electrocution from collisions with power lines.
  41. Scientists have begun to study vultures’ unique senses and abilities and are considering using the birds to help find bodies from crimes. Studying how a vulture finds a body and how quickly it can consume the body can be useful for forensic analysis.
  42. Vultures enjoy their own holiday, International Vulture Awareness Day, which is celebrated on the first Saturday of each September. Hundreds of zoos, aviaries, nature preserves and bird refuges worldwide participate each year with fun and informational activities about vultures to help everyone learn just how interesting and valuable these birds are.
  43. Black Vultures are “family-oriented” birds – they feed their young for up to eight months after their young have fledged and often stay together in family groups.
  44. Black Vultures have black plumage, bare black heads, and white patches under their primary feathers.
  45. Mature Turkey Vultures have dark plumage and featherless red heads; the undersides of the flight feathers are paler. An immature Turkey Vulture’s head is dark gray.
  46. When trying to identify a Black Vulture from a Turkey Vulture while on the wing (in flight), one may do so by looking at the underside of the bird’s wings. A Turkey Vulture’s wings will be largely silvery-white underneath, while the Black Vulture only has small patches of white at the tip.
  47. Unlike most bird species, Turkey Vultures rely on their sense of smell to find prey. Black Vultures rely on sight.

Who’s who at the carcass?
East Africa has one of the most diverse scavenging communities of any ecosystem due to the high availability of carcasses or dead animals. Believe it or not, it is actually scavengers – not predators – that eat the majority of meat available in the Mara-Serengeti ecosystem (up to 70% of all carrion). By consuming dead animals, scavengers play a key role in the environment by preventing disease outbreaks and recycling nutrients. Below you will find descriptions of some of the important scavengers of East Africa.

Did you know?
Globally vultures are the most endangered group of birds. In Masai Mara, vultures have declined by almost 50% mainly due to poisoning (people put poison on carcasses to kill predators, who have eaten their livestock; unfortunately these poisoning events have killed many vultures). – Vultures have to travel huge distances to find food and can travel over 150 km (100 mi) in a day at speeds greater than 100 km/hr (60 mph). – When you get to a carcass with a lot of animals around, it is difficult to know who found it first. While you might think the vultures are stealing a tasty meal from the predators, it often works the other way around. Because of their high flight, eagles and vultures usually find carcasses first and are then followed in by mammalian scavengers. In fact, vultures get very little of their diet from predator kills and are mainly feeding off animals that have died of disease or hunger.

Question: How do vultures eat their prey?
Answer: Vultures have sharp hooked beaks and talons. They can also use tools. Vultures sometimes drop eggs to break them or hit them against rocks.
Question: Why are vultures a symbol of death?
Answer: Vultures often appear when an animal is dying or dead. Egyptians and Native Americans used vultures in burial ceremonies.

Aegypius Monachus
64cm - 81cm (25in - 32in)
130cm - 183cm (51in - 72in)
0.85kg - 2.2kg (1.9lbs - 5lbs)
48km/h (30mph)
20 - 30 years
Black, White, Grey, Tan, Brown
Favourite Food:
Deserts, savannah and grassland near water
Main Prey:
Rats, Small and large animal carcasses
Hawks, Snakes, Wild cats
Large wings and sharp, curved beak

Turkey Vulture Facts
  • Turkey vultures generally grow up to 25.2–31.9 in (64–81 cm) in length with the weight measuring up to 1.9–4.4 lb (0.85–2 kg).
  • They are one of the largest birds of North America. The wingspan measures about 160–183 cm (63–72 in).
  • Turkey vultures living in Florida are apt to be heavier than those found in Venezuela.
  • Females are only slightly larger than the males but they both appear to be of the same size.
  • The adult turkey vulture is covered with blackish down with brown underparts.
  • Adult vultures are recognized by their red head and neck with no hair. They have a white beak. Young birds however show black head and beak.
  • Turkey vultures have a greater wingspan in comparison to the black vultures.
  • Unlike eagles, turkey vultures got talons on their toes that are not adapted to holding a prey. The naked legs of vultures may only allow the bird to roost at a high perch.
  • While California condors lack sense of smell turkey vultures seem to rely on smelling sense and their remarkable eyesight.
Range & Habitat
  • Turkey vultures are most likely to breed in the southern Canada, Mexico, to as far as Tierra del Fuego as well as Falkland and Caribbean Islands.
  • They are thought to occupy a wide variety of habitats ranging from forests and deserts to the high plateaus of the Andes.
  • Turkey vultures typically do not migrate but those living on the Andes are likely to go down to the lower habitats in winter. Similarly some of the subspecies that are found in the western United States will move to the south.
  • It spends summer on the Long Island, Hudson Valley.
  • They also make homes in scrublands, subtropical forests, foothills, open country, grasslands, and wetlands.
  • Turkey vultures are outstanding fliers as they love to glide for miles without even a single flap. The speed at which they travel is 40 miles per hour (64 km/h).
  • They will roost high up in the dead trees sometimes alone while mostly in groups. Turkey vultures may very well stay on perch all day long particularly in rain.
  • When the day breaks, turkey vultures break away from their communal groups to forage alone.
  • They are known to nest in caves but they never go inside except for mating.
  • Predators of turkey vultures are great horned owls, golden eagles, bald eagles, and red-tailed hawks. Opossums, foxes and raccoons prey on turkey vulture’s eggs.
  • While turkey vultures are excellent in the air, they have a rather clumsy walk on land. It seems hard for an adult vulture to fly from the land because the bird needs a great deal of energy to push it off the ground.
  • They will make sounds such as hisses, whines and grunts.
Feeding Ecology & Diet
  • Turkey vultures are dominant scavengers of North America as they primarily feed on animals dead or alive. They may like to eat carrion which is in the initial stages of decomposition.
  • They have fairly small beak and as such they prefer carrion which is already tore apart by other animals. The vulture’s bill is not powerful enough to penetrate the hard skin of carrion. However the hook of the bill is sharp enough to remove the flesh off the carcass.
  • While they rely on carcasses, turkey vultures also eat small mammals including mice. The turkey vulture’s diet also consists of seabirds and herons.
  • With its bare head and neck, the turkey vulture may probe deep into the carcass.
  • Turkey vultures also consume fruits, plant matter, coconut, pumpkin, and shoreline vegetation. They are often seen feeding on roadside kills mostly domestic dogs and cats. They have a varied as they also catch insects or fish in shallow water.
  • Unlike most other vultures, turkey vultures get to the food by the strong sense of smell. Thanks to the olfactory organs that allows the bird to smell carrion below the forest canopy.
Reproductive Biology
  • Turkey vultures typically nest on rocky cliffs but they also nest in bottomland hardwoods or forests. The nesting sites also include brush pile, rock crevice, cave, hollow tree, vine tangle, and in some old buildings.
  • The eastern population seems to have shifted their nesting sites from cavities to thickets.
  • In the southern United States, the breeding season occurs from May to April or June but the northern population breeds in August.
  • They begin to breed 1 – 2 years age with the breeding interval of 1 year.
  • The clutch size is 1 – 2 eggs but a female also lays up to 3 cream-colored eggs.
  • Both parents share the incubation.
  • Eggs hatch in about 4 – 6 weeks. Both parents feed the chicks for about 70 – 77 days.
  • When threatened, chicks may defend by hissing.
  • Young vultures fledge in about 63 – 70 days.