ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

The American Vulture: Nature's Ugly Clean-Up Crew

Updated on March 10, 2013

American Turkey Vulture

I took this picture at the edge of a cornfield, this group is feeding on a deer carcass and has been doing so in this spot for about four days.
I took this picture at the edge of a cornfield, this group is feeding on a deer carcass and has been doing so in this spot for about four days. | Source
The Heraldic Pose, some say this is for increasing temperature, this bird was doing this in early morning the sun behind it, it was 37 degrees that particular morning.
The Heraldic Pose, some say this is for increasing temperature, this bird was doing this in early morning the sun behind it, it was 37 degrees that particular morning. | Source
This picture is taken after a deer was struck by a car so hard the deer carcass separated into several large pieces.  This particular piece fed five to six vultures at a time for about a week.
This picture is taken after a deer was struck by a car so hard the deer carcass separated into several large pieces. This particular piece fed five to six vultures at a time for about a week. | Source
This tree is where the vultures would retreat when a car drove by the carcass in the picture above.  They also retreated to this tree across the street when I got too close to them to take a picture.
This tree is where the vultures would retreat when a car drove by the carcass in the picture above. They also retreated to this tree across the street when I got too close to them to take a picture. | Source
I used a new camera to photograph these vultures, I was about 500 feet from this tree where several vultures would go after being disturbed. The bird in this photo was present the most and he was the first to feed and the last to leave a carcass.
I used a new camera to photograph these vultures, I was about 500 feet from this tree where several vultures would go after being disturbed. The bird in this photo was present the most and he was the first to feed and the last to leave a carcass. | Source

Is That A Vulture?

Cathartes Aura is the scientific name for the Turkey Vulture, they can be found all over the United States. Until a few weeks ago I had no idea that there was an American vulture or that they lived in the State of Ohio. I first encountered one as it swooped down over the hood of my car one afternoon and and landed near a dead raccoon on the side of the road and started to feed. After seeing this bird, I turned around to see what it was, I thought at first this bird was a Hawk, but after seeing the bright red bald head, I knew right away that this bird was not a Hawk. After talking to a friend about the bird I had seen, he told me that they were turkey buzzards and that they are all over the place. He told me sees them flying around over the wooded part of his yard all of the time looking for something dead to eat. After looking the vulture up on several web sites, I learned some new things about them.

Turkey Vultures rarely eat live food, they have on occassion been observed feeding on weak birds or animals, put primarily eat carrion and in my area carrion is abundant. I live in a rural area with many back roads that are full of curves and hills. Many drivers speed on these roads and Hitting wildlife as they cross the road is a common occurrence. The vultures pictured to the right are feeding on a deer killed by a speeding car that was going so fast that when it struck the dear it literally exploded, sending parts of the carcass to either side of the road. The driver of the car was severely injured and the car was totally destroyed. The Vulturefeeds on this deer carcass for close to three days.

The American Turkey Vulture Is Not Related To African Vultures

Turkey vultures are not related to African Vultures, but have the same traits. They are called Turkey Vultures because their head resembles that of a wild turkey. Some scientists believe that the turkey vulture is part of the Stork and Ibises species while others believe that the turkey vulture is part of the raptor family. A few scientists believe that the turkey vulture is distinct enough to be placed in their own species category. DNA testing indicates that turkey vultures have no common ancestry with African vultures.

Male and female turkey vultures look identical, there are no visible gender differences between males and females making visual identification of males and females impossible. Turkey vultures have bald heads because they put their heads into rotting corpses to feed, being bald is purely for hygienic reasons. A feather covered head would allow rotting meat to stick to the vultures head and bacteria would form essentially killing the vulture. Turkey vultures weigh up to six pounds and are 25 to 23 inches long, they can have a wingspan of up to six feet, large enough to cover a windshield if one were to suddenly glide over the front of a moving vehicle.

I have observed these birds soaring in large circles for hours, during my observation of these birds in flight, I have never seen one flap its wings while it is soaring, even as it is leaving my field of view. They are excellent at riding the winds, the only time I have seen a turkey vulture flap its wings is to take off or land. Flapping its wings to take flight apparently takes a lot of energy and once they are airborne they conserve energy by gliding on thermals (hot pockets of air), they can also ride air current deflected off of the ground near mountains or hills.

Turkey Vultures are not aggressive, they live in large groups and leave only to feed independently. They can be seen doing a spread wing pose, called the Horaltic Pose, it is not clearly known why they use this stance, but it has been suggested it may be used to raise or lower their body temperature. Observed Turkey Vultures have been seen spreading their wings mostly in the morning when the sun's intensity reaches a level high enough to raise their body temperature.

Here are a couple more interesting facts. Although it has few natural enemies, if it feels it is in danger, a turkey vulture will vomit to ward off predators. The vomit has a putrid odor that will allegedly ward off the predator. Scientists studying the turkey vulture have indicated that the vomit contains a lump of meat that may distract a predator allowing the vulture to escape as it eats the vomit left by the vulture. A turkey vulture will also vomit after eating too much to reduce body weight. A turkey vulture directs its urine down its legs. Urinating on its legs helps to cool it off on hot days since it does not have sweat glands and acids in the urine from its digestive system kills bacteria that may be on the turkey vultures legs after stepping on a dead animal while feeding. They are also a protected bird, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 keeps turkey vultures from being harmed, so they cannot be legally hunted or kept as a pet.

If you want to learn more about turkey vultures, information can be found on wikipedia and other websites by googling "Turkey Vultures". I found these birds to be very interesting and was able to spend an hour or two watching them as they fed and interacted with each other. I also found myself remembering the "Jungle Book" scene where "Mogley" came across the three vultures in a meadow arguing about what they were going to do for the day and then breaking into song by singing "We're Your Friend".





Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)