Friday, June 14, 2013

Black Vultures

This picture is like a visual oxymoron (the beautiful and the ugly) or maybe the vultures are just trying to improve their image. Notice, again, how the branches they have chosen to perch on do not have any fine branching. I have seen them perch on limbs with fine branches, but they prefer this type when they are available.

It is difficult to find something good to say about vultures. Their one saving grace is to remove dead animals from landscape which would otherwise make a lot of places stinky while a carcass rotted away. This vulture returned to a deer carcass along the edge of the river that had previously been picked clean.

The reason vulture legs are white is because they will defecate on their legs to take advantage of evaporative cooling. Like I say, it is hard to find something nice to say about them. Their heads lack feathers so that when they stick their heads inside carcasses, they don't get as messed up.

Black Vultures find food by using their eyesight whereas turkey vultures use their sense of smell. In this photo, several black vultures were interested in a fish an eagle caught. You may also have noticed a blurred osprey gliding by. It was so early in the morning that it was quite a bit darker than it appears to be in this photo. I could only manage 1/90th of a second - which is very slow, but fast enough as long as everyone stayed fairly still. The osprey couldn't and that is why it is blurred.

Here is a cropped section from the same photo where you can see the fish in the eagle's claw and how close that one vulture is standing.

Vultures will work cooperatively to tear a carcass apart, pulling in opposite directions, as I saw these two doing one morning. I've always thought it a little strange to see vultures soaring out over open water on the river since they cannot land in the water to pick up a carcass. In fact, unlike an eagle or hawk, they cannot grasp food with their claws, although they can hold something down while they tear pieces off as the one on the left is doing.
 Perhaps they multitask and scan both shores for something to eat at the same time.

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