Vultures are Important, Too!
April 12, 2016 5 Comments
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.