Vultures are Important, Too!

Black Vulture Portrait

Black Vulture Portrait

A "Committee" of Black Vultures on Tree Limb

A “Committee” of Black Vultures on Tree Limb

Black Vulture Pair

Turkey Vulture Portrait

Turkey Vulture Portrait

Solitary Turkey Vulture on Post

Solitary Turkey Vulture on Post

Gold Egyptian Vulture Jewelry

Gold Egyptian Vulture Jewelry

Vultures are generally underappreciated birds in Florida. Two species live here – the black vulture and the turkey vulture. Both fill a very important role in the ecosystem as nature’s clean-up crew! These birds help stop the spread of disease, and their bodies actually neutralize biotoxins.

Both have featherless heads, which helps keep them clean when eating carrion. The black vulture is named for its black head, and the turkey vulture is named for its red head (reminiscent of the American wild turkey). Black vultures locate carrion by sight and often feed in groups along the road. Turkey vultures locate carrion by smell (up to a mile away!) and feed alone.

Both species are monogamous and form long term pair bonds. They have no vocal chords and communicate by a series of hisses, grunts, and woofs. Black vultures do not build nests and sometimes lay eggs directly on the ground; they take care of their babies for up to 8 months. Turkey vultures build rough nests in cooler out-of-the-way places; their babies disperse within 3 months.  

A group of vultures spiraling together is called a “kettle”. Turkey vultures have been known to soar up to 20,000 feet on air thermals without even flapping their wings. Although turkey vultures migrate, black vultures tend to stay put.

Ancient Egyptians revered the vulture and protected it from harm. Egyptian headdresses and jewelry often feature a vulture image to symbolize maternal shelter and protection.

About Pam
Richard and Pam lived in the San Francisco Bay Area 14 years (1987-1999 and 2008-2011). They lived in Florida 13 years previously, until returning in July 2011 to present. They hope their photography will encourage you to get out and discover nature's beauty in your own backyard, parks, and wild places. Click on any pictures on this blog to see them full size with additional details.

5 Responses to Vultures are Important, Too!

  1. Dymoon says:

    thank you for this post, I had never seen one up close… good read

  2. FeyGirl says:

    Hoorah!! Thanks so much for the article. These are some of my favorite guys… I know a few wildlife rehabilitators who work with raptors, and they also adore the vultures. They’re so misunderstood – and so incredibly integral to *all* ecosystems. I just learned of one man (a rehabiliator) who travels regularly to India on his own money, to help them with Diclofenac poisoning and educating the public. Incredible man!!

    • Pam says:

      I am so happily pleased that other people can appreciate vultures too. They are so interesting. And thank you for telling me the story about the man who travels to India to help – it brightened my day!

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