Castle Rapture~


Near Haut-Koenigsbourg in France is a castle called Kintzheim that houses only raptors.

These are bateleur eagles that I photographed in the wild in Africa and never expected to see again in France!

Of course you recognize these beauties, who I also never expected to see in France.

The castle runs a program called “La Volerie des Aigles,” which is dedicated to breeding, conserving and educating the public about vulnerable raptors. Birds are flown daily, and are an unusual sight soaring over the old towns and orderly fields of France. The castle has bred many endangered raptor species including Andean condors, and stellar, imperial and white-tailed eagles, and many other species, including vultures.

The white-headed vulture is endemic to Africa. Populations have been declining steeply in recent years due to habitat degradation and poisoning. Our planet needs vultures, they are designed to keep our world clean.

The cinereous vulture has an impressive wing-span of 10 feet. It is under serious threat. There are only an estimated 4,500-5000 of these amazing birds left in the wild.


The golden eagle is distributed across Eurasia, North America, and parts of North Africa, but has been eliminated from much of it’s prior habitats.

Harry Potter’s snowy owls are here too!
The public can visit the castle for a nominal fee which not only supports the raptor conservation program, but also provides an up close experience with these incredible birds which will, unless your heart is made of stone, cause you to become enraptured by them.
Admission also enables you to explore the quite impressive old castle ruins.


Cheers to you from Castle Kintzheim’s gorgeous and threatened raptors~

316 thoughts on “Castle Rapture~

  1. Hi Cindy, one of the many things i enjoy on your blog is that you highlight wildlife and history with travel, among other things! I learn so much while I marvel at the stunning beauty of the images.

    Thanks for being you!

    love, Linda

  2. Neat Cindy! I have never seen raptors like this with such intense blue feathers and with bright yellow feathers as well. Also, their bright red-orange faces are such a contrast with the Blue. They look like a fairytale bird so it’s pretty amazing that somewhere, (in this place and hopefully others) they exist. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Incredible creatures! We have a raptor center near us, they take in the injured, etc. We visited for the first time not long ago. I’m still in awe. I can’t even imagine being as close as you were!! Beautiful photos, Cindy <3

  4. Wow your photos are soooo good! Gorgeous birds! You go to the most amazing places! I sure hope you have tons of scrapbooks of your adventures! Hugz sweetie

  5. These captures are remarkable, Cindy! I’m totally in awe…
    What a beautiful place, castle and magnificent birds.
    Yes, Our planet needs vultures!

    • Bateleurs are stunning creatures. In Africa we were driving down a dirt road in a rental car and one was walking on the road in front of us! I couldn’t believe it. I was able to get several shots before he decided to fly off. I never expected to see one in France! But then, after our last Africa trip, we flew to London, jet lagged, and I photographed an Goose in St. James Park. Amazing!

  6. Wandering Albatross’s have wingspans of almost 12 feet. I saw them in Antarctica. Amazing birds floating like huge aerodynamic kites. Condors can get to 11.5 feet. I Saw Andean Condors in Patagonia, flying at glacier edges when they calved, but have yet to see the elusive California Condor, except in a breeding facility. These birds are like majestic living dinosaurs.

  7. Raptures in general and bald eagles especially look so strict and serious! Like they are supervising the world and do no at all like what they are seeing. We had teacher like that, and I guess everybody knows such a teacher.Loaded with responsibilities and not quite up to the task of understanding what actually is going on. Great pics by the way, πŸ™‚

    • Laughing. Yes I know just what you mean! I always think when they look in my eyes they are seeing perfectly accurately and it is disconcerting how little I impress them. I think they are smart about us.

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  9. The bateleur looks like it could be on television with Big Bird, but I am sure it could not. Our bald eagle will need a very good agent to get a good part on either the small or large screen. Your head shot of the animal will need tweaking for that purpose.

  10. You have done it again. The castle can’t hold a candle to the photos of those birds. My heart breaks to see the eagle restrained. I guess it’s for their benefit but the fact we have done so much damage to where these birds live and thrive is just too much. Thank you for continuing to shine a light on this.

    • Yes. I don’t like seeing the tethers either. They can free fly but they are trained with food deprivation. The things that kills me is seeing them in cages and you are so right. We need to be relieved they are in a cage since we are killing them all off in the wild? We are a bad species. We have done too much harm for too long to too many and it seems to be getting worse.

        • You are a lovely person, who I am so pleased to know. At least that golden eagle got to fly. Those tethers allowed him to fly free, but reminded him he was dependent, and should return to the humans who fed him. It is a lot better than what I have seen in lots of places, because these French birds had no tracking devices attached to them. In the US and other places, they have tracking devices attached to the tethers so humans can catch the raptors if they decide to bolt. If the French birds bolted, they were free. They bolted a bit, which made me happy, and the keepers were unconcerned, which made me happier. The birds came back. It seemed about the best captive bird situation I have seen so far. Still these birds should be wild and we all should be marveling at them and protecting them. What’s wrong us? Why are our priorities so entirely screwed up? I honestly don’t understand our species and I am a psychotherapist who should.

          • Thank you for your kind words. I’ve had the same thoughts as you so many times. The human mind continues to fascinate me as well. I really hope there is a great awakening coming but I seriously doubt it from what I see of the leadership in the world. We need to remember that this planet is in our care not here to serve us. I share your deep frustration. I was telling someone else today that my job it to help change one mind at a time. I had to learn and then teach others. Maybe that’s what it’s all about. Hence to name of my blog. Always looking for answers but the questions just get deeper.

  11. It’s appalling what the world has evolved to. I’m just a person who is recycling, growing a garden, and conserving. Yet somehow I know inside me that I am partly responsible for this.
    Hurrah for the Kintzheim caste & Raptors!
    Wonderful pics, and OMG that first bird is hysterically fantastic!!! My blue baby.

  12. Each pic is beautiful and it’s sad they are on the verge of extinction because of us. But initiatives like these are a ray of hope and should be supported and socialized more to make people aware! Thanks for sharing!

  13. I have never seen or heard of Bateleur eagles. What beautiful creatures. They look like they are dressed up for a special occasion, but then perhaps life is just that. A special occasion.

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  15. Aw, Cindy, you remembered how much I love owls, didn’t you?!? This one is magnificent! Of course, ALL your photos are. These birds look like they were posing just for you. The detail is awesome — thanks for taking me along on your visit!

  16. You make the experience much richer Debbie. I do know you love owls and last night the Great Horned Owls sang to each other all night long. I love when they do this! πŸ¦‰

  17. Wow! Ignorantly, I guess I always thought the bald eagle was only in the U.S. I’d love to visit this castle and see all of the birds. Auburn University in eastern Alabama has an amazing raptor show that they put on occasionally. I enjoy hearing about these fascinating creatures!

  18. Amazing images of these majestic birds, Cindy.
    I’ve said it before but you are a great photographer (in bringing us the details that most travel photographers miss).

  19. Love them all, my friend – the bateleur eagle (the Indian Chief…LOL), the regal eagle, the ravenous vultures, the snowy owl-standing and the rugged castle. (ΰΉ‘ΛŠΝˆ ΰ₯’ꇴ Λ‹Νˆ)merci!γ€œβ™‘((κˆοΉƒκˆγ……)β™‘

  20. These are definitely awesome shots, Cindy. The only bird I have no time for is the Hawk. I was only seven or eight when I watched, how a Hawk dove down and flew away with our beautiful chicken. πŸ™

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  22. Amazing photographs, as always, Cindy. How close are you when taking these pictures? I was surprised to learn that you don’t use a tripod, but didn’t know you could get such clear photos from what I’m assuming is some distance. I would love to learn more.

    It’s hard not to assign personality traits to these beautiful birds. They all look like they’re about to say something, and that you man not like hearing what that is. Your posts are always a treat.

    • Oh I wish I could speak bird! Eagles and hawks would say something like, “You humans are the least impressive creatures on this planet.”
      I would have to agree!
      I don’t use a tripod and I am basically always using zoom, often up to 1200mm equivalent. I credit sony stabilization technology for allowing me to do this. I don’t think I would enjoy photography if I was confined to a tripod. Wild animals are always interested in this moving creature with a big camera attached permanently to her face. They look directly in the lens. With these birds, I was right next to them. I still used zoom to get the details.

  23. Amazing creatures and so very beautiful. I am so happy that there are those who are dedicated to preserving them. We (people) are stewards over all of these creatures and it’s our responsibility to care for them. Love your photos!

  24. Reblogged this on Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life and commented:
    I am behind with my browsing this week but thankfully have caught up with Cindy Knoke’s post of the 26th… Raptors as you have never seen them before.. up close and personal.. what amazing birds and the first one which is a bateleur eagle is frighteningly beautiful. Thank’s to Cindy for getting us up so close to nature. #recommended

  25. I am in raptures over your amazing captures of raptors πŸ˜€ Sorry couldnt resist that but seriously wow! Thank you for these amazing glimpses and pearls of wisdom πŸ™‚

  26. So great, beautiful pictures of great birds! I want to visit the castle some day. Thank you for your blogpost about the castle and this amazing birds!

    • Yes and the root morphology is pretty fascinating in meaning over time:

      Medieval Latin raptura β€œseizure,” from the Latin cognate raptus, meaning, β€œseized and taken, kidnapped by force, snatched hold of and then taken hostage, carried off or away.”

      The use and meaning of the word β€˜rapture’ has changed dramatically over time. Rapture is a noun that means:

      1. Overwhelming happiness: a euphoric transcendent state in which somebody is taken away by happiness or delight and unaware of anything else.

      2. In Christianity mystical transportation: a mystical experience of being transported into the spiritual realm, sometimes applied to the second coming of Jesus Christ.

      3. If you are familiar with the Latin words used to describe a specific class of birds of prey, such as eagles or hawks, they are known as, β€œraptors,” because of their method of hunting, which is to, β€œseize,” live prey with their sharp, powerful talons, grasping rodents or fish unaware or hopelessly trying to escape, and then they, β€œcarry it away.” The raptor as a bird of prey is also from the 14th century Latin, β€œrobber,” which is also derived from the obsolete French word rapere. (Source: Craig Bluemel)

  27. Yes, that vulture is like some sorta rorschach test photo, better the original ink blots, I had strong positive reactions to the photo. What do you think that means?????? Laughing~

  28. Hi Cuz,
    Been on a long quiet break from writing…., doing a lot of reading, and a little painting. What’s with these birds ??? Is there some kind of avian stylist in that castle ??? Hahaha !

  29. Beautiful as always Cindy– I like the heads only photos as if they were portraits. But my favorite it the owl– magnificent!! thanks again for bringing the beauty of the world to where we can appreciate it! xox

  30. Thank you for bringing me close to these wondrous birds and giving me the knowledge others across the world are taking measures to preserve their species. I hope they are breeding them. To help circulate the word, I will repost this to my site.

  31. Oh my, that baby rapture and I have the same neck thing going on, LOL….I’m not there yet but adopting turtle neck fashion very soon. I’m always amazed how well preserved but old, things are in Europe. Castles amaze me. I look through the windows and think about who else has looked at the same view throughout time.

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