Wednesday, April 16, 2008

It's Bald, But It Ain't No Eagle

Mexico has its beautiful amber and black Monarch butterflies.



Capistrano has it's dainty and delicate cliff swallows.



Here in the Texas panhandle we have the Turkey Vulture.


I live in a canyon and two times a year(each spring and fall) we are a stopping off point for these scavengers. Sometimes there will be upwards of a hundred roosting in the tree tops near my house. They have not arrived in numbers that great yet this spring, but most days there are at least a dozen hanging about and circling overhead. The fine specimen above was incapable of flight.

He had a broken wing which has grounded him. Who knows what happened to him, but I snapped a few pictures because this is as close as I've ever gotten to one. He made a steady evil hissing sound the entire time I was near and despite my seven year old's Dr. Doolittle tendencies I did not feel compelled to nurse the bird back to health. My wife did call a local wildlife center and talk to someone but they never called back after the initial contact so that was the end of our involvement.

Here's a few facts from Wikipedia about the Turkey Vulture or buzzard as most people call them.

The Turkey Vulture has few natural predators. Its primary form of defense is regurgitating semi-digested meat, a foul-smelling substance which deters most creatures intent on raiding a vulture nest. It will also sting if the predator is close enough to get the vomit in its face or eyes. In some cases, the vulture must rid its crop of a heavy, undigested meal in order to take flight to flee from a potential predator.

The Turkey Vulture is awkward on the ground with an ungainly, hopping walk. It requires a great deal of effort to take flight, flapping its wings while pushing off the ground and hopping with its feet.
While soaring, the Turkey Vultures holds its wings in a shallow V-shape and often tips from side to side, frequently causing the gray flight feathers to appear silvery as they catch the light. The flight of the Turkey Vulture is an example of static soaring flight, in which it flaps its wings very infrequently, and takes advantage of rising thermals to stay soaring.

The Turkey Vulture forages by smell, an ability that is uncommon in the avian world. It often will fly low to the ground to pick up the scent of
ethyl mercaptan, a gas produced by the beginnings of decay in dead animals. The olfactory lobe of its brain, responsible for processing smells, is particularly large compared to that of other animals.


What do y'all think? Should I open a bed and breakfast to capitalize on all the tourist who are bound to come and see the great vulture migration now that I've let he cat out of the bag? By the way, now that that cat is out of the bag it better keep moving or the buzzards might think it's dead and dine on a bit of feline fricassee.

23 comments:

Jerseygirl89 said...

Definitely sign me up for a visit to your turkey vulture bed and breakfast. It'll be a great way to scare my children into behaving. ;)

Wireless said...

Hello. This post is likeable, and your blog is very interesting, congratulations :-). I will add in my blogroll =). If possible gives a last there on my blog, it is about the Wireless, I hope you enjoy. The address is http://wireless-brasil.blogspot.com. A hug.

sybil law said...

Hahaha "The Vomiting Vulture" - sounds like a comic strip!
Also, like wireless; if possible gives a last there on my blog, it is about the douchebags who leave obvious spam comments [not really]".
:)

deborah elliott-upton said...

Will there be lettuce on the menu?

The Class of 2k8 said...

Kinda sounds like some adolescent males I know--regurgitation, awkward... :)

ChristineEldin said...

God, That is an eerie photo!!! Is that for real, I mean, is that on your property?

What a great post.

Debbielou said...

Regurgitation! That reminds me, how is your liquidised pork chop diet going?

Funny looking creature! , but genuine "Twitchers" ( bird watchers over here in the UK travel miles to see particular birds - so yes set up your B & B - you'd make a "killing" keep the bird happy !

Bubblewench said...

I'd totally come see the vultures. Very interesting post!

Melissa Marsh said...

Vultures are creepy, especially when they circle in the sky. *shudder*

Ello said...

That last picture is awesome. There are turkey vultures out here. I once had a meeting at my law firms conference room which had a 6th terrace. The meeting room had floor to ceiling windows looking into the terrace. The whole time we were meeting a whole flock of turkey vultures would walk about the terrace, sometimes getting at each other. It was fascinating and disgusting. Turns out the firm couldn't get rid of the things so no one could enjoy that terrace.

Bina said...

Weird yes, but that last picture is beautiful!

My mom and step dad have a cattle and sheep farm (well, they did about 10 years back but they have really gotten rid of a lot), and in the Spring, when the cows and the sheep have babies, those darn Turkey Buzzards (as my mom calls them) are all over the freaking hill diving and fighting over the after birth! I mean, we can stand there and watch a sheep have babies, and I swear as soon as that stuff hits the ground they are fighting over it! It freaked me out and reminded me of The Birds. YUK!!!!! And man, they are BIG!

Charles Gramlich said...

Sounds to me as if your serial killing ways have finally caught up with you. What's buried under your house, man?

Clare2e said...

At an animal park, we were told the buzzards are bald since as they dig their heads around the carcasses, their noggins get covered with gutgoo. Without feathers to cling to or pull out painfully, the yuck dries to their heads and then eventually cracks and flakes off like old paint.

Eeeeuuuwww. Congrats on having the most grimly unusual animal sanctuary.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Fabulous pics. We have human vultures where I live and they never fly away.

Britta Coleman said...

I laughed out loud at your intro. Leave it to the panhandle to have the most, ahem, interesting bird populations.

Lana Gramlich said...

If you did open a B&B I'm sure you'd get a good business. Some birders are pretty obsessive about it! As mentioned in the info, these birds are horribly ungainly on the ground (not to mention hideous to look at,) but personally I think they're the most beautiful soarers I've ever seen. I could watch them all day. Just lovely. Here we have black vultures, too (a bit smaller with white wingtips & they flap more frequently in flight.)
I see the wireless guy spammed you, too. He got me, but with his plasma TV blog.

Josephine Damian said...

TE: They live here year round.

I see them every day (lucky me!). Everyday some raccoon or possum, cat or dog is killed crossing our busy FL roads, and every day I see the turkey buzzards (that's what we call them) gathered together to pick apart the carcass. Because they are such un-gainly flyers, every day someone crashed into a turkey buzzard and kills it.

I had one take off just as I was driving past... way too fast.. thought for sure it hit shattered my headlight the impact was so great - it didn't but the thud it made when I hit it. Ugh! Those things are huge!

Deborah: Love the line about the lettuce. lol

Danette Haworth said...

Travis, these photos are excellent, especially the butterfly pic and the scary The Birds pic at the end.

Patti said...

i have often thought of these fine birds as nature's vacuum cleaners. when i see road kill i wonder why housekeeping hasn't been by...

Emma said...

yes, but too much emotion chokes the poem at the throat, and the flavor is lost in the drama. And I'm half afraid that that is what I did... x)

I'm a native Texan too, and I'm glad you commented on my blog so now I can read yours.

cheers.

Lyndi Lamont said...

LOL, I'd pass on the Turkey Vulture B&B. Just doesn't have quite the right ring to it. :)

Great photo, though. I wouldn't have gotten any closer either.

Linda

debra said...

There are turkey vultures here, too, only they are called buzzards. Ther strangest day was an overcast day last fall when about 11 of them were sitting in a tree in front of our house. Then a huge flock of starlings circled round and covered the front. If felt like we were in the middle of a Hitchcock film.

Mom In Scrubs said...

We have lots and lots of them here in the Midwest. I never paid attention to the fact that they might migrate! I love to watch them fly; it's amazing how something so ugly on the ground can be so mesmerizingly beautifly in the sky.