17 March 2009

Lunch with turkey vultures

During my lunch hour walk yesterday I encountered a group of vultures feasting on the remains of a quite dead animal. Surprisingly, I was able to get much closer to them than I had been in the past, but because the camera I had with me had limited zooming, the pictures leave much to be desired.

VulturesRiverdale1

Nevertheless, a colleague at work who is an experienced birder was able to identify them as turkey vultures (as opposed to black vultures). Despite the claim made here that the turkey vulture “usually forages alone”, up to 5 birds are visible in the pictures, and there were probably a few more flying around or on the nearby trees.

VulturesRiverdale2

The thing they were eating is visible under the middle bird in the top picture. It looked like a long piece of deer skin, although no appendages or a head were visible. Its smell was already offensive from far away and I had no intention of getting closer to investigate.

11 comments:

Simla said...

I always imagined vultures living in deserts and desolate places, or at least in some serious wilderness...I never thought they lived around Washington D.C.!!!

AYDIN ÖRSTAN said...

Did I forget to mention that I live in a desolate place with lots of dead bodies around?

xoggoth said...

We need some vultures in the UK to clear up all the road kill. The crows do their best but nothing beats a good vulture.

Incidentally, noticed an odd snail thing recently. Looking out of my office window on still day and seen rippling on the pond. It was a lot of pond snails at the surface all being enormously active for snails. Later on in the day they are back to their normal very slow selves and scarcely disturbing the water at all.

xoggoth said...

PS If we copied the Parsis we could save a lot on funeral expenses too but you really do need vultures for that. Crows would take ages.

AYDIN ÖRSTAN said...

The vultures are indeed an efficient & a natural way to dispose of the dead. But you would still have to do something about the bones. Unlike the crows, the vultures are also quite skittish & normally won't let humans approach them.

The snails may have been on the surface taking up air, if they were air breathing pulmonates. Maybe the dissolved oxygen levels were down that day?

harlan ratcliff said...

You might not want to get too close to them. They have a particular defense called "projectile vomiting". Have fun with that.

AYDIN ÖRSTAN said...

Thanks for the warning, Harlan. I will try to stay outside the range of their projectiles. Imagine me returning to work with vulture vomit all over me. It must smell horrible.

Jannavi said...

The Parsi comment brought to mind a recent conversation I had with a good friend, an avid bird watcher and photojournalist. He mentioned that the vulture is high on the IUCN Globally Endangered Species List because of Diclofenac, an OTC analgesic and also used for livestock. It apparently remains in livestock which is natural food for scavenging vultures and causes renal failure in the vultures. This directly impacts the Parsi community!

xoggoth said...

Yes, the Parsees are having a lot of trouble disposing of their dead in traditional manner:

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/shortage-of-vultures-threatens-ancient-culture-many-parsees-are-questioning-the-tradition-of-sky-burial-tim-mcgirk-reports-from-bombay-on-a-bitter-lifeanddeath-debate-1551640.html

The slight problem of any religious faith unfortunately, inability to adapt practices to circumstance.

Coyote said...

For those interested in learning more about the fascinating turkey vulture, I recommend the Turkey Vulture Society. http://vulturesociety.homestead.com/

Sharon Lee said...

Hi. We have lots of turkey vultures in this town of Southeast South Dakota. They are so huge and dark...they create quite a presence when they fly-and there's a bunch flying together. I was so awed that I started blogging about them too. I plan on studying their behavior and learning more about them. I did too read about that city Parsi sky burials and the vultures that come. If is very interesting.

If you are interested, my blog is at http://greatvultures.blogspot.com/