Monday, March 10, 2014

Vultures - Another Point of View

What one word comes to your mind when you hear the word "vulture"? I think for many, that word would be death.

I go years and years without thinking of vultures at all but last week, when we went on vacation, they were a source of conversation on a couple of occasions. The first time was when we were driving in NE Wyoming on our way to the airport. There was a big vulture cleaning up some road kill as we drove by. I forgot just how big they are! Here is a close-up photo taken from Wikipedia.

File:Cathartes aura -Santa Teresa County Park, San Jose, California, USA -adult-8a.jpg They seem kind of ugly at first.

In flight, though, they are quite beautiful.
File:Cathartes aura -Florida -USA -flying-8-4c.jpg

 They hop-walk when on the ground and look pretty awkward. Their take-off involves and lot of hopping and flapping as well. What I didn't know, though, was that when they soar, they are really quite lovely. They often tip from side to side, catching the light with their lighter feathers. They can soar for hours, yes hours, without flapping their wings!

While I've always known that we needed to appreciate their work as garbage collectors, cleaning up after nature, I didn't realize that other cultures have really honored them. When we were on the cruise on Saguaro Lake in Arizona the captain told us that in a Native American culture (sorry, can't remember which) they were thought to be messengers from God. They were respected!

Some places in the world continue to show respect for these interesting birds. There is even an International Vulture Awareness Day every September. Who knew?

When we were in Arizona, I got a photo of this beauty overhead.


I never did see him flap his wings.