V is for Vultures {Blogging Through the Alphabet}

Vultures are a very common sight here in Florida. We often see them riding the thermals, or along the roads feasting on carrion (road kill).
Black Vultures are compact birds with broad wings, short tails, and powerful wingbeats. They have sooty black plumage, a bare black head, and neat white stars under the wingtips.
Their broad, forward-canted wings, small head, and short tail give them a distinctive silhouette even if you can’t see any color. They also have a distinctive flight style, giving a few deep, rapid wingbeats and then snapping their wings out wide.

Black Vultures don't have as strong a sense of smell as Turkey Vultures. To find food they soar high in the sky and keep an eye on the lower-soaring Turkey Vultures. When a Turkey Vulture’s nose detects the delicious aroma of decaying flesh and descends on a carcass, the Black Vulture follows close behind.
If you’ve gone looking for raptors on a clear day, your heart has probably leaped at the sight of a large, soaring bird in the distance– perhaps an eagle or osprey. But if it's soaring with its wings raised in a V and making wobbly circles, it's likely a Turkey Vulture.
Turkey Vultures eat carrion, which they find largely by their excellent sense of smell. Mostly they eat mammals but are not above snacking on reptiles, other birds, amphibians, fish, and even invertebrates. They prefer freshly dead animals, but often have to wait for their meal to soften in order to pierce the skin. They are deft foragers, targeting the softest bits first and are even known to leave aside the scent glands of dead skunks. Thankfully for them, vultures appear to have excellent immune systems, happily feasting on carcasses without contracting botulism, anthrax, cholera, or salmonella. Unlike their Black Vulture relatives, Turkey Vultures almost never attack living prey.
The most common time to see a Turkey Vulture is while driving, so look along the sides of highways and in the sky over open countryside. When hiking or traveling in hilly or mountainous areas, keep your eyes peeled for vultures. Sudden changes in topography allow for updrafts that the birds use to carry them into the sky.
As you can see, the Turkey Vulture has a larger range than the Black Vulture.

(Here is a video of Turkey Vultures, Black Vultures, and Crested Cara Cara fighting over food. You may want to watch it first before showing your children, especially if they are young, or sensitive to death)

Join us next time for my favorite letter, representing a bird I am most passionate about, the letter "W."

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  1. Vultures are so cool...such an amazing animal so important to the ecosystem.


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