When nature has work to be done,
she creates a genius to do it.
-Ralph Waldo Emerson
I am fascinated and repelled by turkey vultures. We have lots of them, as there is plenty here for them to eat; the deer population in our area is explosive and the speed limit, apparently, optional.
When we first moved into our house, a turkey vulture parked himself right on the roof of our front porch, and I actually phoned my brother, who was inside, to let the dog out and chase it away. I had never been that close to a bird that big before, and they are really big– wingspans of six feet!
While I did not really think it was going to snatch my baby up and carry it away, I was worried it might snatch my baby up and carry it away. Or at least seriously freak her out.
(I feel the need to comment, as I always do, that the hunched-over demeanor of the turkey vulture is captured exactly in Bugs Bunny cartoons. But exactly.)
In my effort to come to terms with my creepy avian neighbors, I thought I would share some turkey vulture facts.
- A group of vultures is called a “Venue”. Vultures circling in the air are a “Kettle”.
- The turkey vulture has a bald head because it is forever sticking its head into carcasses, and a lack of feathers makes for easier cleanup. The sun bakes off any residual yuck.
- They are one of very few bird species with a sense of smell.
- The turkey vulture is not aggressive and will not stalk or eat live things, nor swoop down and carry them away to their nest.
- They nest on the ground, not high in trees, no matter what you learned from Bugs Bunny.
- Their takeoffs are not quick or graceful, and that is why you often see, ironically, roadkilled turkey vultures.
- Their primary mode of defense is vomiting. I would guess this to be very effective.
- Due to the nature of their diet, vulture poop is a sanitizer. The acids within are so strong they kill off bacteria.
- It is illegal to keep a vulture as a pet. (Good to know.)
So, there you have it. The genius of nature. Nature’s trashmen, taking care of us, ensuring we can keep our windows open, for there is nothing like the ungodly stench of a week-old deer carcass in the heat of summer. Gross gentle giants who will not make off with your children.
I apologize that today’s inspiration was not pretty.
Would we love the turkey vulture more if he had the stunning plumage of, say, the peacock? It’s an interesting point to ponder…
Vulture facts come courtesy of The Turkey Vulture Society.
Vulture photos taken outside a chinese take-out at the beach.