Bird Team member and Events Coordinator Ben Cox has been working closely with Azura, our Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle for a few years now. Azura is an absolutely beautiful bird to watch in flight, but is a very reserved and sensitive girl. Carry on reading to find out more about this pair’s special bond, and how Azura’s flight training is coming along ahead of her joining our brand new flying display: Masters of the Sky!
“Azura is a 10 year old Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle, who came to live with us in 2013 from a collection in Spain when she was 3 months old. This species are South American, and can be found in countries like Argentina, Chile and Peru.
She has had quite the journey, the early stage of her flying career took place at Longleat Safari Park, when she starred in a Hawk Conservancy Trust display that used to take place there called Hunters of the Sky. Azura took part in this demonstration for a few years, before coming back to live with us onsite here at the Trust.
I was lucky enough to start working with Azura a couple of years ago, alongside our National Bird of Prey Hospital ManagerTM, Cedric Robert. We decided to see how she would feel about flying on the Behind-the-scenes Winter Experiences we run during our closed period in January. I was so excited about this opportunity because she is, not only, a beautiful bird of prey, she is also well known for being very particular about who she chooses to work with. I felt so privileged when we started working together and our relationship grew stronger. I earned her trust and respect, and she began letting me handle her with care and attentiveness.
After working with Azura closely and really getting to know her, we soon decided that meeting guests on these experience days might not be best for her. She is a very sensitive bird, and she felt quite unsure about flying to people she didn’t know. However, this was a good stepping stone in her training and allowed us to learn more about her and this gave us confidence in her next steps.
Azura’s chance to really shine came around earlier this year, with the creation of our brand new flying display, Masters of the Sky. In anticipation of her featuring in this new display, we started to work on a new training program together to help her feel confident flying over Reg’s Wildflower Meadow in this new demonstration for 2023.
At first, she was still unsure about flying to new people, even within the Bird Team, as well as flying in front of people she didn’t know. We worked together to overcome this, and with time, patience and trust she has grown in confidence. I am very pleased to say she is now a regular star in our Masters of the Sky demonstration that takes place every day during the summer months. If you haven’t seen it yet then I urge you to – it’s a fantastic show with lots of excitement, new birds, new routines and new music. Even if you have seen our shows before, you haven’t seen anything yet as we show off the beauty of our birds in flight in a way we have never done before.
The brand new towers that were constructed October in 2022 in Reg’s Wildflower Meadow, were a big part of introducing Azura to more of our visitors. They are 8m tall and their height gave her the confidence to fly high above a crowd. Hearing the ‘ooo’s’ and the ‘ahhh’s’ she gets from our guests as she flies over them is very special. This has been one of the proudest moments in my career so far, and seeing Azura’s progress to feel comfortable and confident flying above crowds has been extremely special for me. I’m very lucky to have been given the opportunity to work with this magnificent bird.
Our training together continues and it’s now time to introduce her to some other members of the Bird Team so that it isn’t only me working with her.
I adore Azura, and the species in general, and I can’t wait for thousands of people to see her fly over the summer months. She makes me proud every single time that she takes to the wing, a sensational bird who will, no doubt, continue to be a star of our Masters of the Sky demonstration in years to come.”