Turkey Vulture visits

Nature's sanitation department

It’s always unnerving when a person you know from one setting pops up somewhere else, like seeing your doctor in the frozen foods aisle. That’s how I felt when I saw a turkey vulture hunkered on our block wall. Usually these birds are seen high overhead, riding wind currents on their broad wings. A turkey vulture is shockingly large viewed at close range, and shockingly homely. This unfortunate appearance is not his fault, and is the price he pays for some remarkable adaptations.
Then there is the diet. As a scavenger the turkey vulture’s tastes run to the putrid. Not a chance you’ll find this guy in the frozen foods aisle! Like most creatures of nature, the vulture is ideally designed for its lifestyle. Take that bald red head. This streamlines post-meal clean up, as the detrius dries up there and scratches right off. The turkey vulture is equipped with excellent eyesight to help him spot food on the ground, and also a sense of smell, something most other birds do not have. The turkey vulture has a wicked beak for ripping and tearing, while his feet are harmless. He has no need for strong talons to subdue his prey! Notice the white on the legs of the bird in the picture. He has been using an evaporative cooling method called urohydrosis, which means he’s excreted on his legs to bring his body temperature down. Neato, huh?
I hesitate to even mention the projectile vomiting. This is a defense mechanism the birds use when threatened. Imagine a turkey vulture on the ground gorging on some dead thing when coyote trots up. The turkey vulture is too full to fly away, so he vomits a stream of highly acidic and horrendous smelling bile in the direction of the coyote. This development deters most predators and also lightens the load so the vulture can escape.
Despite some rather unsavory habits the turkey vulture performs a valuable duty, much like nature’s sanitation department. Imagine the bacteria that would be floating around the desert if turkey vultures weren’t cleaning up!
When we saw this vulture again the next day we decided we should check in on the neighbor, but she’s fine.


3 responses to “Turkey Vulture visits

  1. Head not so pretty…iridescence in the feathers…magnifico!

  2. They kind of take “adaptation” to an extreme, huh…

  3. I have seen them on the walls in our neighborhood too, they are huge!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s