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Lovebirds in Norfolk: Virginia Zoo imports male vulture for breeding program

John Denver was brought in to be a mate with the Zoo's female cinerous vulture, Eve. They're two birds of a feather.
Credit: The Virginia Zoo
John Denver, new cinerous vulture at Virginia Zoo

NORFOLK, Va. — Friday morning, the Virginia Zoo shared exciting news - their new male cinerous vulture, John Denver (JD), had just arrived from California.

This big guy has a wingspan of 10 feet - and they can grow to be 3.5 feet tall. His species is "one of the largest and heaviest birds of prey," and unfortunately, is endangered to near-extinction because of human interactions.

JD's at the Zoo to help with that, though.

He was sent over as part of a breeding program through the Species Survival Plan, to be mated to the Virginia Zoo's female cinerous vulture, Eve.

The zoo used to have two female cinerous vultures, also known as monk vultures or black vultures, but through the breeding program, "Meera" was sent to the Riverbanks Zoo in South Carolina.

The Virginia Zoo's online blog said she's settled in well there, and she's been introduced to her mate, Walter.

Eve, the Virginia Zoo's mate for four-year-old newcomer JD, is more than 14 years old.

She lives in the zoo's tapir habitat in Asia – Trail of the Tiger. 

Credit: Virginia Zoo
Eve the cinerous vulture, at the Virginia Zoo

A release from the zoo said keepers have been watching the two lovebirds closely, and they're already seeing sparks between JD and Eve.

"The pair have also been seen preening each other and playing with enrichment items – nothing says potential love like tearing up a fish carcass together," a spokesperson wrote.

The zoo's blog said a baby vulture, no matter the timespan, would be good news for their species.

"While it may take a few tries, and even a few years, for the pair to breed, any offspring would aid in preventing this species from going extinct," they wrote.

John Denver was born in captivity in - you guessed it - Denver.

In the wild, they live anywhere between Spain, India and China, and the zoo said they've even been recorded living near the top of Mount Everest.

Eve and JD will be on display at the Virginia Zoo year-round. Eve has more solid feathers with white spots on her wings, and JD has marbled feathers.