Cinereous Vulture Can’t Get It Up (in the Air) (Twice)

A near-threatened raptor that crash-landed in Singapore failed two flight attempts after rehabilitation

Collage of cinereous vulture in Singapore.
Screenshots: Mandai Wildlife Group via Mothership/YouTube
Prayers for Bird of Prey

An idiot bird failed to fly twice after it was rehabilitated following a recent crash landing in Singapore.

The flightless dummy, a cinereous vulture not native to the region, had veered off its normal migratory path and was spotted in Singapore — the first recorded sighting of this species of raptor in the country — on December 29.

Cinereous vultures are one of the largest Old World vultures. Their conservation status is listed as near-threatened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. They mostly live throughout Eurasia, but not as far south as Singapore. The Straits Times reports that the raptor typically winters in northern India and the Middle East, but probably overshot its migratory path.

In a weakened state likely due to exhaustion or a lack of food, the vulture was nursed back to health at Jurong Bird Park’s bird hospital. But when its rehabilitators attempted to set the raptor free on January 4, it was a total flop, Singaporean news service Mothership reports. The vulture flapped its wings for a bit but remained grounded, despite a caretaker giving it a nice — if condescending — pat on the shoulder, and despite a group of National Parks Board and Mandai Wildlife Group staff members chasing the bird in an attempt to evidently harass it into flying.

After 30 fruitless minutes, the bird was carted off to recover further. Xie Shangzhe, the deputy vice president for conservation, research, and veterinary at Mandai Wildlife Group, told the Straits Times that the vulture, which otherwise appeared uninjured, probably didn’t take flight due to cooler and cloudy weather conditions. Larger birds typically rely on thermal uplift to fly, which happens when hot air near the ground rises while denser, colder air sinks.

The next day was attempt number two. Despite the ideal weather conditions, the vulture could only fly a short distance, per Mothership. Staff members reportedly waited under the hot sun for three hours while the bird took its sweet time not doing shit.

Nevertheless, the National Parks Board and Mandai Wildlife Group deemed the bite-sized flight “promising,” and the diva raptor was taken back in for additional rest and feeding. The organizations will attempt a third release when conditions are favorable — that is, if the bird-brained layabout hasn’t become too accustomed to a life of ease and luxury by then.