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Last Updated: Sunday, 9 May, 2004, 15:31 GMT 16:31 UK
Vulture is a back-garden visitor
Turkey vulture. Photo by Michael Myers
The turkey vulture is identifiable by its red head
A large vulture has been spotted flying into gardens in Cambridgeshire.

The bird of prey, which is thought to have escaped from a zoo or a personal aviary, has been dodging raptor experts for two weeks.

"Vultures are soaring birds so it could have come from miles away," said Liz McQuillan, of the Raptor Foundation in Woodhurst, Cambridgeshire.

The bird is believed to be a turkey vulture, a North American bird with a six-foot wingspan.

Mrs McQuillan said: "When we were told that someone had spotted a big bird in their garden we thought it must be a large crow or a raven but one of my colleagues went to see it and we believe it's a vulture.

"It has anklets and a ring on its legs, so we think it may be missing from a zoo or perhaps be someone's pet."

Carrion-eating bird of prey

The vulture was first spotted in a back garden in Godmanchester, near Huntingdon, two weeks ago.

Members of the Raptor Foundation spent more than five hours trying to catch the bird, but it flew off and was seen four days later in the village of Fen Drayton 10 miles away.

It was later spotted a mile down the road in Swavesey and was last seen sitting in a tree near the centre of Cambridge on Saturday.

Graham Smith, 56, who lives in Hoadly Road, Cambridge, said: "I glanced out of the window into the back garden and saw a huge bird swoop up into the tree.

"It was really big and looked a bit like an eagle, so I knew it had to be a bird of prey. It had a tether on its leg so I thought it must have been someone's pet."

Turkey Vultures are carrion eaters and prefer to eat small animals, either dead or alive, but Mrs McQuillan said people had no need to worry about their pets.

She added: "It's highly unlikely it would attack a cat or dog, but you never know what it may do."

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