Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Nature's cleaner-uppers

Turkey vultures returned to Ontario several weeks ago. Even though we've had snow storms and freezing weather, I've watched them circling alone or in twos and threes sometimes more.

They are not what I would call pretty birds, but they are magnificent in their own way. And they do an important job since their diet consists of dead animals. They are nature's garbage collectors. One report I read stated that their heads are devoid of feathers as an adaptation to avoid getting them soiled when they eat. In close-ups you can see the two nasal passages - very large and designed to capture the scent of some creature that has died. They are the only birds as far as I know that have a sense of smell which they use to locate food.

They are fascinating to watch as they circle on wind currents, using the thermals to float as they wind their way across countryside searching for food, or perhaps just the sheer joy of flying? They nest in Ontario and like many birds are spreading ever further northwards.

While they appear black all over, their feathers are black and brown. I was very lucky to find several that weren't easily chased away from a baby raccoon which had been hit by a car. When I got out of the car eventually, to take a couple of shots, only one hung about. It spread it's wings and looked over it's shoulder at me as if to say - "you can't catch me, so beat it!"

I laughed, took a couple of other photos, other turkey vultures circling and checking out supper and drove home...I was pleased to get so close to these big birds that are very careful. I admire their flight and also the way nature was designed to be in balance.

1 comment:

  1. Oh dear, maybe I don't want to read about them being garbage collectors, turkey is one of the only meats I eat LOL

    When I first opened the page I thought to myself, boy turkey's really aren't pretty and then I read down and you said almost the same thing :) Great minds!

    I hope you are doing well my sweet friend and I am sorry I haven't been better about keeping in touch!