Paragliding instructor Scott Mason recently demonstrated the astonishing activity he has pioneered called parahawking, wherein a trained bird of prey guides him on flights to thermal columns that make his aerial trips longer and more birdlike.
Footage taken September 28 over Spain, shows Mason and a tandem paraglider as they are accompanied by a trained vulture. The bird goes back and forth between landing on the stick attached to Mason’s camera, and flying alongside the men, never more than a few yards away.
Mason told Storyful he pioneered parahawking to raise awareness for birds of prey across Asia and Europe, and has since turned it into a tourist attraction.
“My aim was to create awareness, to portray them in a more positive light and educate people about the important role they play in our ecosystem,” Mason told Storyful.
Mason has been training birds since he was 10. According to Outside, Mason or the tandem companion holds some meat in a glove and sporadically rewards the bird with it.
Mason explained the birds’ role as guides to Outside, saying, “Thermals are rising columns of warm air that are created when the sun heats the ground. They provide lift for paragliders and soaring birds such as vultures, allowing them to save energy. Because birds such as eagles, hawks, and vultures instinctively conserve energy while flying and have a natural ability to find thermals, they provide the perfect thermal marker for paragliders.” Credit: Scott Mason via Storyful