Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Second Ugliest Vulture

As if Vultures weren't dismal-enough creatures already, the Black vulture had to one-up the infamous Turkey Vulture by appearing even more morose, even more black. That being said, I submit that the Black Vulture, despite its morbid coloration, is more aesthetically pleasing than the Turkey. 
Both can congregate in terrifyingly large kettles and should not be taken lightly...


This group of thirty or more Vultures was hanging out near a water tank on Old Arlington School road.  Perhaps there was a large family reunion, or else the Vultures knew some of group was having a large reunion and were also not long for this world. Whatever the case, they were planning something. Friends to the bitter end...


Told in flight by their silvery fingertips (unlike Turkey Vultures, whose entire wing primaries are translucent), their stockier build and their all-black heads, these buzzards minimize the disgusting facial features of the Turkey Vulture, and prove once again that black is a comparably flattering color, especially if you're got a dubious reputation already, as many Vultures do. 

11 comments:

  1. I love Black Vultures. It's a bit eerie to find a bunch of the together. When it's Black Vultures, there's usually something major waiting to be eaten:) Although here in Arizona, I'm always a bit mortified to see what it is that they are wanting to feast upon. So far it has been coyotes and other dead rodents which is fine by me:) Cool shots!

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    1. Cheers Chris.

      I've seen them descending on cow carcasses as well, and as Kathie says sometimes they'll try to pick off something that yet lives (I imagine this applies to most predators, if the circumstances are right, though some have more of a disposition for it than others).

      I'll take a Caracara any day.

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  2. Laurence, I like the turkey vultures better with their red heads and pearly beak tips. Plus, the behavior of black vultures in more gruesome as they will attack living animals and feed upon them. I saw a group surrounding a newborn calf once as the mother tried to fend them off. We were driving by on the highway so we were no help to the poor thing. Perhaps they should have the collective noun of being a "murder" of vultures instead!

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    1. oooh I was wondering if/when/who would counter-say my pronouncements! : )
      They're real undertakers these Black Vultures. Do the Turkey Vultures really abstain from live prey though?

      The thought of vultures, comparably clumsy and ugly, attacking live prey is disconcerting versus some other more deserving species of raptor, but on pure aesthetics I'll still give them the points over their Turkey Buzzard brothers.

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting Kathie.

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  3. I've never seen such a large gathering of Black Vultures before. I most often observe them circling aloft. Terrific photographs of these very interesting and strange looking birds!

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    1. You are a lucky woman Julie G...
      A lucky one. : )

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  4. Funny thing black vultures. They're not supposed to be in NJ (or AZ?), but they've been slowly expanding their range. So while we see them quite a bit now, it's weird. I know they're not supposed to be here, but I like the way the light shines differently through their fingers, or primary feathers if you will.

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    1. Yes, their range is expanding down here as well, and perhaps the reason I like them most is they make Vulture kettles more interesting. Now there are two common Vulture species to look for, and it's not too hard either.

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    2. So really you appreciate their novelty rather than their appearance?

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    3. I'd say their edge over Turkey Vultures is 60% novelty, 40% appearance.

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    4. Clearly I'm bogged down in scientific literature... I immediately wanted to know what your confidence intervals were for those numbers. (Supposed to be reading papers, but they're about plants so they're boring.)

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