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5 Facts That’ll Make You Think Differently About Vultures

5 Facts That’ll Make You Think Differently About Vultures

Poor vultures. They really get a bad rap. No one wants to be called a vulture. It means you’re lazy, just picking the scraps off someone else’s hard work. Vulture even became part of the 2012 presidential campaign vernacular. However, vultures are actually interesting creatures that play a vital role in their ecosystems.

There are 23 species of vultures that can be split into two groups: the New World Vultures and the Old World Vultures. On this International Vulture Awareness Day, let’s learn a little about these super gross and fascinating birds.

Credit: Magnus Kjaergaard via Wikipedia

Vultures have stomach acid from hell.

That might be overstating things. I mean, I have no idea what hell’s supply of stomach acid is like. However, vulture stomach acid is tough and really corrosive. It has to be, otherwise they wouldn’t be able to eat those nasty, rotten carcasses that are infested with botulism, cholera and anthrax.

Credit: Jan Reurink via Wikipedia

Vultures live all over the world.

The popular portrayal of vultures is that they are exclusively hot desert birds that wander around looking for almost-dead prey, and, when they find it, circle mercilessly overhead. However, vultures are actually found on every continent except Australia and Antarctica. Species of vultures live in a variety of climates, including along the Himalayas, Sub-Saharan Africa and in the Amazon River Basin. It doesn’t matter where you live. Someone needs to get rid of the dead stuff.

Credit: Kadellar via Wikipedia

Vultures can use tools.

They can’t use tools the same way chimps or human can… because they’re birds. However, the Egyptian vulture, for example, drops rocks onto ostrich eggs in order to break them open. They’ve also been spotted using twigs as a tool to gather strands of wool, which the birds use to line their nests.

Other vultures use other methods of finding food. The bearded vulture, for instance, will drop tortoises so the shell will crack open. The bird will also do this with bones so they can get at that tasty marrow.

Credit: Kadellar via Wikipedia

Vultures can be very social.

It’s also part of popular cartoon wisdom that vultures slink around alone, or maybe in groups of two or three. In fact, vultures can be very social. Take the Ruppell’s Griffon vulture. These birds mate for life, which can be 40 to 50 years, and live in colonies of 1,000 mating pairs. The love birds only lay one egg per year, and both parents incubate and feed the resulting chick. They don’t only live in large colonies; they also tend to feed in large groups.

Credit: Snowmanradio via Wikipedia

Vultures can smell.

Well, at least one species can: the Turkey vulture. This is an ability that is rare in birds, but Turkey vultures can sniff out a special sulphurous smell from more than a mile away.

 

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Photo Credit: Dmitri1999 via Wikipedia

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275 comments

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7:24AM PDT on May 11, 2014

very interesting article, thanks for sharing :)

6:44AM PST on Feb 2, 2014

Striking looks & a vital role... how many of us can say that?

6:36AM PST on Feb 2, 2014

It's a pleasure, GGma Sheila. The Egyptian vulture is actually quite small and I have a soft spot for them because they were the first birds I ever recall sketching in the wild.

Looking at all the birds I lumped together as 'Griffon Vultures' I wish I could sort out the different species without the bird book

12:46PM PST on Feb 1, 2014

Thnaks Rosemary for helping out with names here. The yellow-faced Egyptian vulture is very striking, but so is the white-legged and -necked vulture in the first photo. Also love birds of prey, like the harpie, and the various owls. They're all fascinating. So many birds, not enough time to get to know very many...cat lover here - their nemesis.

10:52AM PST on Feb 1, 2014

GGmaSheila D,

Without getting out my bird book, there are several species of Griffon Vulture, which most of these appear to be( and I do need the book to distinguish between Griffons). The yellow-faced white bird is an Egyptian Vulture, and the last bird appears to be a Black Vulture.

10:50AM PST on Feb 1, 2014

GtgndmaSheila D,

Without getting out my bird book, there are several species of Griffon Vulture, which most of these appear to be( and I do need the book to distinguish between Griffons). The yellow-faced white bird is an Egyptian Vulture, and the last bird appears to be a Black Vulture.

2:45PM PST on Nov 12, 2013

I already commented on vultures but I want to add that they also eat potatoes and carrots and chick peas and old stale bread,I put all these leftovers out and within a few minutes there were at least 16 vultures on my front lawn,they devoured it all in seconds!!!

9:17AM PST on Nov 12, 2013

Beautiful pictures and informative reading.Thanks.

9:32AM PDT on Sep 30, 2013

I already have a healthy respect for them..............and all the other species on this planet, except for the most dangerous ones {humans}.

11:57AM PDT on Sep 20, 2013

They are ugly but beautiful birds at the same time!!

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