Bones, the rare African white backed vulture, has found his way to the concrete jungle – and now plans are afoot to bring him back to his Midland home.
The giant bird, which was born in captivity, flew out of his enclosure at Blackbrook Zoological Park, in Winkhill, near Leek, Staffordshire, sparking a nationwide birdwatch in August.
Earlier this week the six-year-old vulture, which has a red ring around one of its legs, was spotted scanning the leafy landscape of Richmond Park, Surrey, for prey.
But despite the positive sighting it is now believed Bones – who has an 11ft wingspan – is heading towards nearby Croydon. Jaclyn Pearson, an assistant curator at Blackbrook, said she was not worried about the vulture's survival skills as the temperature begins to drop, but hopes to be able to bring him home soon.
She said: "We first got the report Bones was in Richmond on Monday and it seemed to be a promising lead, but since we began checking it out we believe he's now flying south towards Croydon.
"We need very accurate information, which park, whether he's nesting or settling there, before we can go down and lay carrion bait so we can catch him when he comes down to the ground to feed.
"I've no doubt that he's doing well, probably surviving on roadkill, things like hedgehogs, rabbits, foxes or while he's been in rural areas he may have enjoyed pheasant or mice."
Bones, who has a creamy-white coloured back and the rest of his body has brown plumage, managed to escape when a tree branch ripped a hole in netting covering his enclosure.
Ms Pearson admits this is the first time any animal has escaped from the zoological park, but she added despite his tame disposition the public should not approach him.
She added: "He is quite a passive bird but if anyone spots Bones they should not try and catch him, as that just won't happen. The best thing they can do is give us a call with as much information as possible.
"However the problem we had when he first went missing was we got a lot of calls from people certain they'd seen him, when in fact they had mistaken a buzzard for him.
"Vultures are quite intelligent but I don't think Bones will find his way home on his own, he's flown too far away to do that, but we're still hopeful that we'll get a positive ID which will lead to his capture."
Anyone with information about Bones' whereabouts can call Blackbrook Zoological Park on 01538 308293