Friday, September 7, 2012

De-mystifying the Creepy Ones!

"Vulture" and "Buzzard" are words that evoke unpleasant images in most people's minds....and I was no different.  Over Labor Day weekend, I was sitting on my back step talking on the phone with a friend when I saw several Turkey buzzards/vultures soaring in the sky, soon moving right overhead.   With vultures, the first thought is:  "Something's dead somewhere!"   Then a friend who lives not far out in the country (actually not far from my house) posted on Facebook about buzzards roosting in trees near her house.  So I made a trip with my camera that afternoon.  And I went back in the morning.  After that, I began researching to find out just what I didn't know about these ugly scavengers.

Turkey Vultures don't kill; they eat carrion. They prefer fresh meat but will eat decayed meat if that's all they can find. Their featherless heads are "hygienic" in that they don't collect any of the bacteria in carrion.  They are described as "gentle and non-aggressive" and the only vocalization they make is a hiss if they are afraid or threatened.  If that doesn't work, they can play dead---OR they throw up!  They can't fly at night, so they roost in high places (wild turkeys do the same!).  Most likely they are not related to Old World vultures which are raptors, but might be more closely related to storks and ibises.  They are common throughout the lower 48 of the US, and they migrate to warmer climates in the fall.  (Oregon vultures probably fly to Mexico for the winter.)   The 25+ vultures roosting on my friend's property are most likely getting ready to migrate--and aren't waiting around for her 30-year-old horse to die, as she thought!  
This is what they remind me of:
 SkekSil of "Dark Crystal" --a Jim Henson animated film

Nice Halloween image, I think!

This pose is most likely the way they warm their wings and bodies

That's a shy Blue Heron flying off; it had been roosting with the vultures until I showed up.

They are just not very attractive birds!  

The juvenile vultures have head feathers and a black face; they don't have the silver wingtips of the adults, either.

The silver color is on the underside of the wing and tail feathers

A frightening scene, even if he/she is "gentle and non-aggressive" 

The Blue Heron is right at home roosting with the vultures


TexWisGirl said...

i like these guys. they are a part of my daily life here. my dogs don't like the way they smell, however. :)

Linda Makiej said...

Awesome photos!! There is one that has been roosting on the chimney of my neighbor's house here in Massachusetts all summer long!!

Candy C. said...

I'm with TWG, they are just part of the scenery around here. I did notice last year that they were not around during the winter, guess they went even further south!
Love the Halloween image! :)

Carole M. said...

you got some wonderful shots Evelyn; so nice to see nature doing its thing. I'm glad you helped out with the de-mystifying details

Thistle Cove Farm said...

No, they aren't beautiful but they do provide a great service! I love to watch them drift on the wind currents.

Tricia said...

These look wonderful and you're right, that one would be perfect for Halloween. It was nice to learn something new today :)

Gail Dixon (Louisiana Belle) said...

I used to see these in Texas all the time, but I did not know all these facts about them. Makes me love them even more. See, I don't think they're ugly at all. They're interesting to me. And sometimes I throw up if I'm scared, so we have something in common. lol Great captures! Bet that was a fun photo excursion.

Anonymous said...

Thank goodness for these clean-up guys!
I think the Turkey Vultures are beautiful in flight.
You got some great, eerie-looking shots, though.

Anonymous said...

Fab shots... I just don't like their bald heads.. you got some great shots!

missing moments said...

Turkey vultures are so ugly but serve a good purpose. Great captures of these guys.

Daryl said...

ugly but they do photograph well .. and are interesting ..

Ms. Becky said...

I've generally associated them with something dead too. I've learned something about them and now have a greater appreciation for these creatures. that first shot is so excellent. happy week to you.

Lisa Gordon said...

I never knew this.
Thank you!
Love the second photo here, and oh yes, it would be perfect for Halloween.