JULIET: turkey vulture
Juliet came to us in October 1993. She was found on the ground, starving and unable to fly. A previously healed left-wing injury prevented normal flight, and despite months of physical therapy, full range of motion did not return to the wing. She was deemed non-releasable.
Juliet became a display bird in June 1994 and shared a cage in the visitor area with Balzac, a male turkey vulture who was imprinted on people. The two birds usually got along quite well together. Indeed, for many years we thought Juliet was also a male vulture—until summer 2002, when she laid an egg! Before that we had called her "Romeo," so under the circumstances, it seemed only right for us to change her name to Juliet.
Juliet is a fine display bird and a wonderful addition to our education program. She helps us teach audiences and visitors that these large, impressive birds perform an invaluable service by cleaning the countryside of carrion. When we point out the huge nares in the top of Juliet's beak, it makes it easy for our audience to understand that turkey vultures, alone among raptors, use their incredibly acute sense of smell to find their food. We hope that getting a close-up look at this lovely large bird, with her red head and with her silver-lined wings spread in the sunshine, our visitors will no longer think "Yuck, a vulture!" and will stop to admire beautiful Juliet!