The Burren is an otherwordly coastal landscape of undulating sheets of rock covered in wildflowers. It is unlike anything that I have ever seen. It would take many days to fully explore. At the northern end of it there is a working aviary designed to mimic the natural habit of the buzzards, falcons, eagles and owls that live here.
The Centre puts on daily shows of the various species that live here.
Here are the four that were on display during my visit.
Red Kites are about the size of Herring Gulls. They breed in western Europe and northwest Africa though populations have been decreasing.
By 2010 there were only 7 pairs in Ireland but a successful breeding programme has led to a large increase in numbers.
Shakespeare makes many mentions of kites.
But I am pigeon-liver’d and lack gall
To make oppression bitter, or ere this
I should have fatted all the region kites
With this slave’s offal. Bloody bawdy villain!
Remorseless, treacherous, lecherous, kindless villain! (Hamlet, 2.2.411-415)
The deadly-handed Clifford slew my steed,
But match to match I have encounter’d him
And made a prey for carrion kites and crows
Even of the bonny beast he loved so well. (Henry VI Part II, 5.2.12-15)
This morning are they fled away and gone;
And in their steads do ravens, crows and kites,
Fly o’er our heads and downward look on us,
As we were sickly prey: their shadows seem
A canopy most fatal, under which
Our army lies, ready to give up the ghost. (Julius Caesar, 5.1.96-101)
If charnel-houses and our graves must send
Those that we bury back, our monuments
Shall be the maws of kites. (Macbeth, 3.4.84-86)
Come on, poor babe:
Some powerful spirit instruct the kites and ravens
To be thy nurses! (The Winter’s Tale, 2.3.218-220)
More pity that the eagles should be mew’d,
While kites and buzzards prey at liberty. (Richard III, 1.1.139-140)
Are you the butcher, Suffolk? Where’s your knife?
Is Beaufort term’d a kite? Where are his talons? (Henry VI Part II, 3.2.204-205)
Falcons are widely distributed on all continents except Antarctica.
The exhibitor told us that a barn owl can hear the beating heart of a mouse from a distance of ten metres.
Caracaras are found in South America and Central and North America about as far north as Arizona and Texas. I saw one in the Falkland Islands.
They are members of the Falcon family but, unlike many falcons, are not fast-flying aerial hunters. They are comparatively slow and are often scavengers.
This bird spent a lot of the show running along the ground.
They tend to avoid areas with thick ground cover because it prevents them from getting a running start to take flight.