Monday, August 6, 2018

Wednesday Bird of the Week: August 8, 2018

Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura) drying out in the morning sun.
This week I am choosing to focus on the Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura). Although the Turkey Vulture may seem like a boring or disgusting bird to most people, I find them to be a very interesting species.

For example, did you know that the Turkey Vulture has a well developed sense of smell? Most birds lack in their olfactory senses, but Turkey Vultures are able to find some of the carrion  that they feast on through their sense of smell. They soar above highways and partly wooded areas searching and watching the actions of other scavengers to find freshly dead animals to pick apart. They prefer these fresh corpses, but have been known to eat stuff that has been rotted so much that it is toxic to other animals.

This may all sound disgusting, but actually brings up the very unique role that the Turkey Vulture has of cleaning up dead, rotting corpses to prevent the spread of disease. Think about all of the times that you have seen a Turkey Vulture picking at a dead deer along the side of the road, or picking up the remains of an animal that is no longer identifiable. Now imagine how many carcasses would be along the roads if those birds had not been there to clean up the mess.

Luckily for us the Turkey Vulture is of low conservation concern thanks to leveled out numbers in population.

There are a few vulture species that soar the skies here in the United States. Some identifying marks of the Turkey Vulture are their black bodies with their gray flight feathers, pink bald heads and white bill. Their range covers most of the United States during the breeding season and year round all the way down to the northern parts of South America.

A small wake of Turkey Vultures eating on some old catfish heads.
So next time that you're disappointed to spot a Turkey Vulture soaring through the sky instead of a Bald Eagle or Osprey, just remember all of the good that they do for the world by cleaning up the messes that we make.

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