We had a visitor recently, who can see and smell dead things, but he doesn’t have the “sixth sense” and it’s not ghosts he sees. Well, I assume he doesn’t see ghosts:~) .
He visited two days in a row and sat in the same pine tree in our yard. I have to admit, he made me rather nervous. I could see him very well from our screened porch. The way he sat, kind of hunched and staring towards me, made me think of Poe’s poem, The Raven:~)
I hope you can see from the picture, he’s a bit disconcerting and maybe even scary looking with his red and featherless head. However, this is exactly how I knew what kind of bird he is – a Turkey Vulture.
Turkey Vultures aren’t the most attractive looking birds, but they serve a very important role in nature. Without them, we might smell some really bad odors and even be exposed to dangerous bacteria.
Sometimes, Turkey Vultures are confused with the closely related Black Vulture. Both fall into the category of raptors in that they have talons, curved beaks and eat meat. However, the Black Vultures will kill prey as well as feed on dead animals.
Turkey Vultures don’t kill prey. Instead, they use their sight and excellent sense of smell, the largest of all birds, to find food as much as a mile away.
While lightweights at 2-4 pounds, these master flyers have a 6 foot wingspan. They are able to conserve their energy by using thermal currents to “float” in the skies, avoiding having to flap their wings as much as other birds.
They also mate for life and can live a long life. The average age is around 20 years, which is LONG for a bird. (source: Audubon Kern River Preserve)
So, even though he looks rather ugly, we should appreciate the Turkey Vulture. He does what none of us want to do; he cleans up dead things and, in turn, the dead provide the vulture and his babies with life.
I have to admit there’s something sort of beautiful about this. It proves again that everything has a purpose in life. And so, I leave you with this quote from The Lion King:
“Mufasa: “Everything you see exists together in a delicate balance. As king, you need to understand that balance and respect all the creatures, from the crawling ant to the leaping antelope.”
Simba: “But, Dad, don’t we eat the antelope?”
Mufasa: “Yes, Simba, but let me explain. When we die, our bodies become the grass, and the antelope eat the grass. And so we are all connected in the great Circle of Life.” ~ The Lion King —Mufasa and Simba
Turkey Vultures are part of that “Circle of Life” all around us.
Want to know more about Turkey Vultures and some of their more unusual habits, go here:
Comment Box Questions:
Has a Turkey Vulture visited your house?
How did the Turkey Vulture get his name?
Why is it a bad idea to scare a vulture? (Ok, you’ll have research this, but it is funny:~)