I have a passion for these birds…. Vultures…

A bird that spends its life searching for dead animals on which to feed, hardly seems likely to attract the fascination of anyone. However the vulture is, for me, an aerial acrobat, a pilot of note and a master of the skies. To watch these birds descending out of the skies to land at a dead animal, can be likened to watching the top pilots in the world perform, only the vulture is better.

I have sat at “Vulture Restaurants” where dead animals are placed for these birds to feed on… their descent is magnificent, their take off when full hardly a thing of beauty, but once airborne their ability to use updrafts to gain height a thing of awe and wonder. So little wing flapping, a little in the beginning to gain sufficient height and then it is onto a thermal….

Some of these birds are huge, like the Cape Vulture… with a wingspan of 2.26–2.6 m (7.4–8.5 ft.) and a body weight of 7–11 kg (15–24 lb.), it seems hardly able to fly, but once airborne a true master…

Here is a photo or two of a committee, volt, or venue which refers to vultures resting in trees…..

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Now that’s a committee I’d hate to have to Chair… here a few photos of vultures flying in to take a bath after feeding… (the flying vultures as a group are called a kettle…)

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Looking at the photo above one can see the feathers that aid in updraft detection, but to me the head down flight reminds me of the RAF’s Hercules aircraft, with their short landing and take off abilities… I wonder if the designer did not make a study of this bird……

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and then after their bath they will sit and sun dry before returning to a roost to digest some of their meal…

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Of course a group of feeding vulture are known as a wake….

A few interesting facts gained from a little research….

Vulture stomach acid is exceptionally corrosive, allowing them to safely digest putrid carcasses infected with Botulin toxin, hog cholera, and anthrax bacteria that would be lethal to other scavengers.

They also urinate straight down their legs; the uric acid kills bacteria accumulated from walking through carcasses, and also acts as evaporative cooling.

The two prominent bare skin patches at the base of the neck, found in the White-backed Vulture, are thought to be temperature sensors and used for detecting the presence of thermals.

The White-backed vulture is listed by the IUCN as "Vulnerable", the major problems it faces being poisoning, disturbance at breeding colonies and power line electrocution. The current population is estimated at 8,000. This vulture nests on cliffs and lays one egg per year, not the quickest way to get out of its “Vulnerable” status…

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71 thoughts on “I have a passion for these birds…. Vultures…

  1. A Bird Lady (Sorry, I do not know what to call her profession, but she is an expert of some sort about wildlife) informed us, her audience, that today, medical scientists are researching about how the potent antibodies of the vulture can be used to treat / prevent certain illnesses.

    • I’ve heard of this from an ornithologist (bird lady/man) as a treatment against things like anthrax… good pick up Imelda… not many people know about this… it is at one of these research facilities that I often visit to get up close to the vultures…

    • Thanks Dianne… created in nature for a purpose and the protection supplied by nature for them to perform the job… nature never ceases to amaze…

  2. Our NZ Falcon and the Australia Hawk are also beautiful birds – attracted to the dead but they are so graceful. Rob you truly are a mine of information though – thanks for sharing. Fantastic blog!

    • Thanks Jan… Australia has no vulture, and now I wonder if NZ has?? Probably not… your falcons and hawks do the job for them… but that does raise a question in my mind… do they do any hunting in NZ of deer or antelope etc.??

  3. Le foto sono molto belle, ma gli avvoltoio non tanto. Però non li ho mai visto dal vivo quindi non posso esprimermi totalmente, magari poi piacciono anche a me :-)
    Un caro saluto, Patrizia

  4. I love to watch these birds as well. We spent a great deal of time watching their aerial stunts when we were in the Everglades. I really do enjoy the interesting facts you post Bulldog. Thanks!

    • We have the crows and ravens as well,,, but for me there is nothing quite like the vulture… to see that sharp beak ripping off pieces of skin and meat one realises that they do also have a lot of strength… yet they are clever enough if the skin is too tough they will wait around for one of the other scavengers like the hyena to make the opening for them…

  5. I’m fascinated with vultures too Bulldog, don’t know why. I had no idea they had such a massive wingspan! I’ll have to tell my Aspie daughter about the stomach acid and urine down the leg stuff, she loves all that biological sort of thing. Nice touch with calling a group of feeding vultures a wake…and so far as their gatherings, that’s one committee I wouldn’t want to be taking the minutes for! Great post, photos and narrative…love it… :-)

    • Thanks Sherri… it is one of those birds that easily fascinates people… sometimes for a good reason others for a bad reason… it is just so pitiful that so many loose their lives due to poison… farmers that poison sheep carcass to kill the vermin, that inadvertently kill off such an important bird from the circle of life… I will sit and watch these birds for hours which tend to bore the life out of most people…

  6. The birds I like are the corvids such as ravens and crows, a bird that is often viewed in the Uk with negative perceptions. I have never seen a vulture, but like so much in nature they must be an awesome sight in action.

  7. When I see or think of vultures, I smile because I think of the vultures in Disney’s, ‘Jungle Book’ the vulture were the voices of the Beatles, I believe.
    Now I have much more info to add to the childhood memory, Thanks Bulldog.
    God bless
    Kymee

  8. fascinating stuff bulldog! It would seem that every creature has a purpose and has what it takes and makes it unique and able to fulfill that purpose where others can’t… Great photos, thanks for sharing them!
    Diana xo

    • Thanks Diana… it is one of those birds that most people shudder when thinking about because of the times you see them up to their bodies in the carcass of an animal… but without them the bush would lose so many more animals to disease… anthrax being the main culprit of many animal deaths… so I love to follow the antics of these birds that just fit so well into the big picture and rather ignore their choice of food…

  9. I seem to share your fascination with this unique bird. While in Texas this past winter, I found myself sitting and watching these amazing creatures which lead to doing research to learn more about them. Great captures :-)

  10. I remember watching a TV programme last year about the ecological importance of vultures and how they keep areas clean by disposing of dead carcasses that would otherwise spread diseases. Once again nature has provided a solution to a problem through amazing evolution. I see vultures in a different light now and hope they survive despite declining numbers. Vultures might not be the most attractive but they carry out an essential role.

    • You are so right Brian… an amazing bird, that should receive a protection second to none… they keep a special place clean and disease free for us…

  11. You never cease to amaze me…..both with your wonderful photos, but also the interesting facts & figures you seem to acquire.

    I’ve never seen a real live vulture, so I’ll have to admire yours (preferably from this side of the planet – they look scary and way too big for my liking).

    • One of the interesting facts I wanted to add and forgot is there are only two places in the world where vultures do not live and Australia is one of them…Antarctica the other… and that I found fascinating… I would have thought Australia would have been a continent that needed them with your vast open spaces un inhabited … what happens to all those roos that die in the bush… do the Dingoes keep the bush clean??

      • Not sure Bulldog.

        I imagine we have many other predators (like dingoes) which clear all the dead carcasses. Australia seems to be well apart from other continents and it’s only with white settlement since the late 1780s that we have really been inundated with non-indigenous flora and fauna.

    • Thank you. I have had the privilege of getting close to a few of these birds and you would be amazed at how clean they are… with a bald head there is never any collection of blood there and yes they bath, there is one particular spot in the Kruger Park that I have visited for 30 odd years and when the river is not in flood you will always get a gathering of these birds having bathed, or bathing, or drying themselves off…

      • It’s true – they never have stuff hanging off of them. There’s this one big tree near the lake where they keep an eye on the nature park, the curve in the road where deer like to scamper across for the green grass. Always a sight when a whole bunch slowly rotates in big circles on the up drafts – they seem to hang like a baby’s mobile in the sky for the longest time. We’re outside the big city – lots of wetlands, fields still around the clumps of houses ( which are growing larger much too fast)

  12. Great shots, Bulldog. And so informative, too. I love the way God equipped them to be able to survive those awful sicknesses where other birds would surely perish. He truly gives each of His creation what they need to survive their existence. Well done…and thanks!

    • Thank you Skye, when one watches what these birds eat, and how quickly they clean up the bush you can be nothing else but amazed… these are Gods chamber maids, His cleaning crew, call them what you will, without them the sicknesses that would kill off so many other animals and people would merely proliferate… truly amazing birds, they are by far the best fliers and to see them on the ground, battling for food yet never hurting each other absolutely a bird to be admired…

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