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Monday, March 4, 2013

A Venue of Vultures

There I was, scurrying around getting things ready for the Retievers Unlimted Fun Hunt, when I heard suspicious rustling over head. Then a huge dark shadow went  over, and when I looked up into the early mornig light, I was surrounded. I had found myself slap dab in the middle of a venue of vultures.

A group of vultures is called a wake, committee, venue, kettle, or volt. The term kettle refers to vultures in flight, while committee, volt, and venue refer to vultures resting in trees. Wake is reserved for a group of vultures that are feeding. Before all was said and done, I found myself in the middle of all of the above with the exception of the wake.

Frankly, the way the vultures were  peering down at me made me wonder if my own wake wasn't right around the corner.

As the sun topped the thick stand of pines, I could see that there were vultures in front of me, behind me, tree lines on both sides of me were  full.  These big often maligned, not the most attractive birds, were EVERYWHERE. I estimated this group numbered close to 150, but it was hard toi tell exactly how many were roosting in the pines.

As vultures are want to do on cold mornings, they sit in the sun, perched precariously on limbs and soak up any warmth they can before taking off for first morning flight The Turkey Vulture Society has a great web site full of vulture facts and tells us that:
This is called the "horaltic pose." The stance may serve multiple functions, including warming the body and drying the wings. Research on this pose suggests that turkey vultures spread their wings in the mornings, once the sun's intensity reaches a certain level, to raise their body temperature (which they lower at night by a few degrees as an energy saving mechanism).

Let's face it vultures can be a hard bird to love. They certainly aren't the prettiest, although if you take the time look closely, the have some beautiful coloration in their feathers. Their wrinkled red heads remind me of sour faced priests during the Inquisition. They eat dead stuff. Nasty dead stuff. They vomit when they feel threatened ,  and they purposefully urinate on their  own legs.  Is it any wonder they aren't in the top ten most loved wild bird list?

Despite all of those things, I have some crazy fascination with the  turkey vultures that are year round residents on the high bluffs and river bottoms of my neighborhood. I love to photograph them, love to watch them feed, and use them as heralds of where there may be a carcass with interesting bones or other left overs for examination my my inner science geek.

C'mon - let's show a little love to these big birds that keep our fields and forests cleaned of all types of carrion and carcasses !


  1. LOVED this post..I have a great affection for vultures.

  2. Yep, that's what they're doing around me. They appeared out of nowhere.

    Last year I figured out that they go much higher in the air column when the bald eagle is cruising around. They know the pecking order.

  3. There is one redeeming quality that I have noticed about the vulture- it is elegant when it flies!