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Eighth Day of Christmas

On the eighth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…

…eight vultures circling!


...seven spiky yuccas!
...six types of milkweed!
…fiiiive! naaaative! plaaaaants!
…four hummingbirds!
…three moorhens!
…two mourning doves!
…and a replacement for a Bradford pear tree!

Black vultures, Coragyps atratus, are native to my neck of the woods, with a range extending over most South America. We have tons of turkey vultures as well, but I had never encountered black vultures until I moved to North Carolina.

You can ID a black vulture quite easily in flight, as they have a different shape than turkey vultures and a large pale crescent at the end of each wing. They are—for vultures—quite charming. Most of the rehabbers I’ve talked to say that vultures rapidly become their favorite birds to work with, as they’re intensely social and capable of great affection. Black vultures usually live in family groups and you’ll often see the whole clan going after a roadkilled deer.

We had one—Vulture-Bob—perch on our house for a few days. Because we are terrible suckers, we worried that he might be hungry, but drew the line at setting out carrion. (We were also rather worried he’d vomit on the dog, this being their primary method of self-defense.) He left a few days later, but every few months, he—or someone like him—appears in the woods around the yard again, checking to make sure we have not died. So far we have not obliged.

Both Kevin and I now cannot pass a flock on the roadside without calling out “Hi, fellas!”  When I was driving across the southern US this last time, I didn’t start to feel like I was getting near home until I saw a black vulture (which wasn’t until somewhere around Mississippi.)

Yes, this is a weird thing to fixate on. I’m a birder. We do that.

Originally published at Squash's Garden. You can comment here or there.


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I took a bird to the wildlife rehab near me last week ("near" is actually an hour away.... so few rehabbers are able to last, it's so sad!) and there was a black vulture just chillin' outside their door. He had to be a resident. When we left he came over and curiously pecked at our shoelaces, then started in on my friend Rocco's leg hair which he found rather disturbing. (Can't see why...!) The bird was very gentle though and just so calm and curious - he immediately won me over with his personality. Black vultures are now one of my favorite birds too!

Yes, I met a lady once who sent me pictures of her vulture parties--they put leftover meat on a platform in the woods, then sit back at a distance with her friends on lawn chairs and sip wine. :)

I adore Black Vultures. They are birds of great personality.Actually I like all vultures but blacks are extra special.

We only get turkey vultures up here, and I really miss the black vultures. It's not that turkey vultures aren't great... but black vultures are just better.

One of the nature centers north of us has a turkey vulture as a program bird (named Lurch, how perfect!) and he's a hoot. He'll spread his wings to show off at the drop of a hat, nibble his handler's hair (and glove, and shirt, apparently they nibble on everything). Apparently Lurch gets carsick though, which makes traveling with him to programs a rather... aromatic experience.

This is my favorite story about him, though.

The background is that the program birds are transported in pet carriers - the leash attached to their jesses gets put through the front so the handler can grab it before they take the bird out. They've stacked the screech owl's carrier on top of Lurch's while they're en route to the program location. The handler hears the screech owl making the most pathetic peeping, but can't check on it until they get to the site. When they pop open the back of the van, they find that Lurch has grabbed the owl's leash in his beak, and dragged it into his cage until the poor screech owl was completely smashed against the front of his carrier.

Now the front of the carriers are covered in cardboard so nobody can get a beak through.

Betcha Thrush Bob can kick his ass.

My favorite bit about vultures is that they are the only birds around here with a useful sense of smell-- apparently they actually find carrion by the scent, and will come looking for dead things even if you cover them up so they're not visible from the air. The black vultures are much better at this than the turkey vultures, so the turkeys tend to follow the blacks around and get at the hard-to-reach inside corners of a carcass, for which their heads & beaks are better suited anyway.

I had not talked to any rehabbers who've dealt with them-- that's fascinating that they're sweet and friendly as well. :)

They sound really cool, can hear the wind through their feathers even when gliding.

regarding birds and the sense of home...

I moved from northern Virginia to central Florida this year. And the one thing about the birds I didn't expect is that the Mockingbirds sound different. I mean, of *course* they do - they have different birds to mimic down here! But it was a rather more visceral reaction of homesickness when I realized what I was hearing was a Mockingbird... and it sounded nothing like I was used to.

I've loved reading all your '12 Days of Christmas' posts, they've been entertaining and informative! <3

What is a vulture's favorite band?

Kansas, for the song "Carrion, My Wayward Son".

And how do you tell the difference between them and immature turkey vultures

We get turkey vultures here in large batches. They are especially plentiful during calving season--it turns out that fresh placenta left over from calving is like caviar for vultures. So to speak.

I mentioned before the turkey vulture rookery near my home. I've gotten to liking the vultures and enjoy watching them circling. First time I saw them on the ground, I was completely surprised at their size. Just don't tell the TVs that I prefer the Blacks because I don't need myself or my car targeted. Yuck!

We have vultures nesting on top of our office building. Every so often my supervisor looks out the window and sees one watching him.

I've gotten really fond of turkey vultures; I love to watch them fly-- they can ride for nearly an hour on a good thermal, gliding without a single flap. Back in NW Florida where I grew up, seagulls filled that particular niche; they clean up the beaches and get rid of all the dead fish. The beaches'd be a hell of a lot messier without them.

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