Dave Stives, an animal keeper at the Los Angeles County Parks and Recreation Center, gets up close and personal with a turkey vulture named Apollo. The two hit it off after the bird was rescued after being hit by a car in Virginia.
It was love at first sight for a tough turkey vulture that survived a car crash in Virginia 10 years ago.
The bird openly flaunts her relationship with soft-spoken Los Angeles County animal keeper Dave Stives.
Their bond was captured in a YouTube video published Thursday on the website of LA County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky.
“Apollo has a crush on him and is absolutely in love,” said Kaye Michelson, spokeswoman for the Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks. “She has this huge wingspan that looks like she is hugging him with her wings.”
After being hit, Apollo was sent to a private facility in the Antelope Valley, where she had her serendipitous meeting with Stives, her first contact with a human being.
Stives helped nurse Apollo back to health. He recalls her wild instincts during their first encounter.
“She was a typical wild animal, just running around and trying to get away, acting like a totally wild bird,” Stives said told NBC4 on Saturday. “She took a liking to me.”
The facility went out of business and Apollo was moved to the Placerita Canyon Nature Center in Newhall where she was reunited with her human soul mate and will remain throughout her life.
“She remembered me from the beginning,” Stives said.
The turkey vulture’s love at first sight was obvious to others in the nature center.
“It’s fascinating to see him handle her,” Michelson said.
The bird has taken to a form of non-verbal communication with her buddy, "hugging" or enveloping him in her nearly 6-foot wingpsan.
Before completing his other tasks, Stives usually stops in first to see his red-headed friend who was named by her original caretakers before they knew the bird was a female.
“I say, 'hi,' every morning and make sure she is all right," he said. “I don’t think she could get into a fight with me if she wanted to.”