Turkey Vultures; The Only Game In Town.

I have a strange feeling about this summer mostly due to the cool almost downright cold overnight temperatures. I must be clear my knowledge of the weather patterns, predictions and all things related to it are a mystery to me. I get all of my information from the T.V. weather guessers and what I am able to glean from the weather channel. In other words I won’t be testifying in front of Congress as a weather expert any time soon. Going off on a limb I’m going to predict it will rain substantially this summer during July, August or September; it’s too late for June.

Vultures are graceful birds while in flight, granted they appear a bit wobbly much like a high wire walker using a balancing stick. Appearing out of balance may be due to the slow flight speed needed to search the ground from an elevated height. To gain altitude they pound their large wings to catch the updraft, they may not move their wings for hours. They form a Vortex appearing column consisting of as few as 2 birds or as many as 10 or more. Frequently Hawks will join in the column for brief periods of time as they don’t share the patience the Vultures display. This is when binoculars are handy as the Hawks, Ravens and Turkey Vultures appear similar from a distance. The sooner the photographer begins to track them the easier as well as waiting for the best composition.

Vultures are natures clean up crew without them the rancid aroma of rotting flesh would be all too common. Contrary to common perception the Vultures are picky eaters, they don’t automatically land next to a dead animal and begin eating. Observing them after landing near one they are seen standing off by several feet, at times they may follow one another walking around the tentative meal. They stop to stare at the animal performing two vital tasks. The first is to detect movement, they have no desire to begin to feed on an animal with one last breath of life in it. One kick or bite from a nearly deceased animal would surely lead to the demise of the scavenger. The second task is smell, they detect the smell of death it is the same odor that natural gas is scented with; if they don’t detect it they won’t eat it. Both indicators of life must be absent before the birds will approach the animal.

Their digestive tract is powerful consisting of some of the strongest acids in the world to aid in digestion as well as killing pathogens that kill normal animals. One would then reason their scat is toxic, actually the opposite is true as it is nearly sterile.

I was fortunate this morning to be able to catch some photos during a recently rare appearance by a flock. Apparently the eggs have hatched requiring the fledglings to be fed. The Parents take turns visiting a scavenge site then returning to the nest to feed the young ones. Soon we’ll see other birds in the mix as their fledglings prepare to leave the nest, perhaps we’ll see them learning to hunt and fly; it’s that time of year.

Jacques Lebec Natural Self Reliance

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