Monday, February 11, 2013

The Supreme Court of Vultures

turkey vulture (red head) and black vulture (gray head) by Kelby Ouchley

Every morning on my walk I pass a metal tower beside the road where the vultures roost. They always look so serious and solemn in their black robe of feathers as they perch side by side and face the rising sun.  It seems that court is in session.  A few do rise up from their sun-worshipping ritual and circle over my head.  I am always aware of the possible unpleasant consequences of this action.

We have two kinds of vultures here in Louisiana: the black vulture (Coragyps atratus) and the turkey vulture (Cathartes aura).  I tell the difference by their tail shapes when they are soaring.  The black vulture has a short, broad tail and the turkey vulture has a long, narrow tail.  Also the adult turkey vulture has a bare, red head, where the black vulture has a bare, gray head.  The term “buzzard” is a misnomer.

The bird book says that turkey vultures are more common and that is the kind I see most often.  Vultures are a part of a healthy environment since they are scavengers and eat mostly carrion.  They help clean up the environment.  I especially appreciate the work they do along the roadsides by eating  roadkills.  Another interesting fact about vultures is this:  they nest on the ground or on hollow logs.  According to one source, black vultures depend on their sight to locate food and turkey vultures depend on their sense of smell.  Both species soar in Louisiana skies seeking food sources. Look for them in urban areas, because they are also fond of garbage.  And the verdict is…….

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