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Last Updated: Wednesday, 14 June 2006, 12:35 GMT 13:35 UK
Huge vulture stalks Welsh skies
George the vulture
The vulture's owner says he is "quite a character"
A vulture with a nine-feet wingspan is soaring around the skies of mid Wales.

George, an African white-backed vulture, is being allowed to fly freely from his home at the Dyfi raptors centre in Machynlleth.

But his owner, falconer Barry MacDonald, has assured people startled by the sight of such a huge vulture that George is "totally safe".

He said: "George is quite a character - but he was hand-reared as a baby so he's totally tame."

The centre uses its collection of birds of prey to "spread the word" about the plight of raptors around the world.

George has starred in television programmes and falconry shows around the UK.

The raptor's nine-feet (2.74m) wingspan makes it one of the largest birds of prey in the world.

But Mr MacDonald wants to warn farmers and people across mid Wales not to be alarmed if they see George in the sky.

He said: "We want him to encourage George to behave naturally and soaring is one of the things that he does."

George the vulture
George has a nine-feet wingspan

The raptor centre uses a tracking system to monitor exactly where the vulture is when he is enjoying the thermals rising from the hills around Machynlleth.

"We're basically going to be keeping him within the Dyfi Valley, but there's always a chance he could range a bit further depending on the height that he goes up," he said.

Some types of vulture have been spotted flying at up to 37,000 ft (11,278m) - but Mr MacDonald said he did not expect George to reach that sort of altitude.

He added that the centre hoped to find a companion for George by the end of the summer - a captive-bred white-tailed eagle - which will also be involved in flying demonstrations.

Bird groups hopeful on vultures
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