Wednesday, June 18, 2008

V is for Vulture

V is for Vulture. And this is Coragyps atratus, the American black vulture, soaring the skies where I am working today. How timely that the V in ABC Wednesday fell on a day full of vultures. Look at those wing tips - like fingers. A five foot wing span is not uncommon.

This pair soaring into the waterfall - pure poetry of motion and a dance with death. One split second of aerodynamic miscalculation and those plumes of water would crush them instantly. I wonder what they're looking for in those turbulent chutes of water.

A gray, overcast sky full of vultures -- ominous yet beautiful. Circling, spiraling, soaring -- absolute grace from faraway.

Black vultures are more apt to congregate and feed together than their turkey cousins. According to Wikipedia:

The American Black Vulture also occasionally feeds on livestock or deer. It is the only species of New World vulture which preys on cattle. It occasionally harasses cows which are giving birth, but primarily preys on new-born calves. In its first few weeks, a calf will allow vultures to approach it. The vultures swarm the calf in a group, then peck at the calf's eyes, or at the nose or the tongue. The calf then goes into shock and is killed by the vultures. It is known to regurgitate when approached or disturbed, which assists in predator deterrence and taking flight by decreasing its takeoff weight. Like all New World Vultures, the American Black Vulture often defecates on its own legs, using the evaporation of the water in the feces and/or urine to cool itself, a process known as urohydrosis.[2] It cools the blood vessels in the unfeathered tarsi and feet, and causes white uric acid to streak the legs.

V is for Vulture. W is for Where - where in the world am I today? Can anyone guess? There are plenty of clues. These cathartidae being one of them.

ABC Wednesday is at Mrs. Nesbitt's Place
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