Draper Natural History Museum Raptor Experience Asks, "What do you give a vulture for her birthday?"

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There’s nothing that the Buffalo Bill Center of the West in Cody, Wyoming, likes better than a celebration. On Friday, June 20, 11 a.m. – 1 p.m., they’re marking the third birthday of one of the most dynamic birds in their Draper Natural History Museum Raptor Experience, Suli the turkey vulture; the party is free with admission.

Suli the Turkey Vulture

Suli the Turkey Vulture is three!

Basically, Suli thinks she's human.

Suli the turkey vulture is the only one of the six live birds of prey at the Draper Natural History Museum Raptor Experience in Cody, Wyoming, whose birthday can be determined. A Kansas couple found Suli—which is the Cherokee word for vulture—in a haystack when she was only a couple weeks old. They placed her in a nearby building assuming her parents would hear her and continue to care for her at the new nest site.

“What they didn’t know is that vultures don’t have a voice box and can only hiss and grunt,” Assistant Curator Melissa Hill explains. “When her parents didn’t return, the couple took her to the Milford Nature Center in Junction City, Kansas. The center did not have an adult turkey vulture to act as a foster parent, so Suli grew up with people. Consequently, she didn’t gain the critical skills for survival that her parents would have taught her, and she can never be released back into the wild. Basically, Suli thinks she’s human.”

Suli’s party is the perfect time to learn more about turkey vultures—including a vulture “defense” mechanism demonstration that’s sure to have the Internet buzzing with photos, texts, and videos!

Joining in the fun are Suli’s fellow avian ambassadors Kateri the golden eagle, Isham the red-tailed hawk, Hayabusa the peregrine falcon, Teasdale the great horned owl, and Salem the American kestrel—the Raptor Experience’s newest and tiniest addition. Fun activities on tap for partygoers of all ages include a scavenger’s scavenger hunt with prizes, since Suli is a scavenger after all. Finally, staffers are on hand for the latest in turkey vulture style face painting, and visitors are encouraged to take a “selfie” photo with Suli—a life-size cutout of her, that is.

So, what does one give a turkey vulture for her birthday? Hill is taking suggestions on the Center’s Facebook page and encourages everyone to send birthday greetings. Attend Suli’s party to see what presents she gets—and don’t miss the very special birthday cake that only a turkey vulture would love.

“Of course, one of the best presents is to participate in our Adopt-a-Raptor program,” Hill adds. “Contributions are always welcome to help feed and care for our raptors. Check it out on our webiste—and don’t miss Suli’s birthday!”

For more information, contact Hill at melissah(at)centerofthewest(dot)org or 307-578-4111.

Since 1917, the award-winning Buffalo Bill Center of the West has devoted itself to sharing the story of the authentic American West. The Center, an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, is now operating its summer schedule, open daily 8 a.m. – 6 p.m. For additional information, visit the Center's website or its pages on Facebook and Google+.

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Marguerite House

Melissa Hill
since: 02/2010
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