Photo by Don DeBold, licensed under Creative Commons
(link) to the site where I found the photo, which purports to actually be about everything. Always good to know.
I was thinking about turkey vultures this evening for some reason…partly because here in Carlsbad, New Mexico, we are not long past the date of their annual departure. It’s like with the bats, or the swallows and Capistrano. These repetitive migrations start wearing paths in at least some of our souls after awhile.
The vultures leave here around my birthday, October 14, so it’s easy to remember.
I’ve noticed they seem to be leaving a little later these last few years, as they seem to be arriving a little earlier (usually around St. Patrick’s day). A day here and there, so do migrations of migrations begin.
But, back to the fun facts.
The first page I hit when I searched for turkey vultures was because I was first wondering whether they have any natural enemies, and thus searched for “turkey vulture natural enemies.”
Found this, a nice piece on Adirondackwildlife.org
Beautifully written and well worth reading in full. It’s not that long. Excerpt:
We often see them overhead, their broad v-shaped, five to six foot wingspan teetering effortlessly from side-to-side on rising thermals, like a kite in a gentle breeze, using their keen eyesight and highly developed sense of smell to locate the carcasses of recently deceased animals. Turkey vultures are related to black vultures, yellow-headed vultures and condors, and received their name, by the resemblance of their feather free heads and dark-feathered bodies to wild turkeys. Turkey vultures are also more closely related to storks and ibises than raptors
We are also told that circling vultures are often looking for thermal air currents, not dead stuff, because that’s how they fly; searching for and working the warm air masses, and then using them as platforms for their soaring dances of travel.
A group of circling vultures is called a “kettle,” as if the folks involved were bubbling.
More nomenclature and fascinating explanations:
Large groups of vultures, called “venues”, are often seen roosting on the bare limbs of dead trees, spreading their wings to dry them after rain, or absorbing heat, baking off the bacteria picked up during days spent with their heads in, and their bodies moving around, carcasses. Or, we may see them circling high over an area where the gases, most notably ethyl mercaptan, emitted from decaying carcasses, signal the presence of food.
Kettles and venues both! Are these not fun facts? Not to mention the stuff about how their heads are bald because they have evolved that way because they spend so much time with their heads stuck inside decaying carcasses. Much easier to do clean-up later that way.
In any case; no, they don’t have much in the way of natural predators as adults. Sometimes the kids get taken out by large raptors.
I’ve long thought that I’d like to be reincarnated as one, if that really works. Not much in the way of natural enemies, easy food supply, you are a critical component of any ecosystem of which you are a part – and for extra points; you get to fly.
Oh, and there is that bit about how the circling vultures who aren’t actually looking for dead stuff, are considered by some vulture researchers to actually be playing with each other…