Archive for the 'vultures' Category

Vulture Fun Facts

Wednesday, June 21st, 2017
Texas Turkey Vulture.

Texas Turkey Vulture.

This is Passport to Texas

Vultures get a bad rap: maybe it’s because they aren’t “pretty birds”, or because they eat road kill. Non-game Ornithologist, Cliff Shackelford, says they deserve our respect as they are a helpful, interesting species.

Vultures have a role to play, what we call ‘ecosystem services’. These are benefits to us; it’s unfortunate that our cars hit animals—but think about what’s left behind. The vultures are cleaning up all the mess and we have to commend them for that.

How do vultures eat decaying carcasses and not get sick?

Vultures don’t get sick because they have certain bacteria and other flora in their guts that help them break down these carcasses.

Although a migratory species, vultures live year-round in Texas. When road kill freezes up north, those vultures travel south.

Because of our location, we not only host a lot more vultures in the winter season, we see a lot more passing through in the spring and fall migration.

Vultures are social birds and roost together, preferring the tall structures that allow an easy entrance and exit.

They like cell phone towers, rocky outcrops and ridges, an old tree that’s standing up really high. They like the tallest roof in the area.

Yet, they nest on the ground under fallen trees, and are excellent parents. Now that you’re better acquainted, we hope you’ll give vultures a little respect.

For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.

Texas Vultures

Tuesday, June 20th, 2017
Turkey Vulture

Turkey Vulture. Photo by Annie Ellison Regional Interpretive Specialist

This is Passport to Texas

Some people call them buzzards, but Cliff Shackelford says the correct ornithological name for the large black birds that dine on road kill is: vulture.

We have the turkey vulture and the black vulture.

Shackelford is a non-game ornithologist with Texas Parks and Wildlife.

And the best way to tell them apart when they’re perched and sitting on that dead deer carcass on the roadside, is: look at the color of the head on the adults. The black vulture has a gray head and the turkey vulture, a red head.

Vultures circle high above the land in search of a meal.

The turkey vulture uses the sense of smell, and they’ll smell their prey. The black vulture, though, uses sight, they’ll look for prey, but they’ll also cheat. They’ll also look for where the turkey vultures are circling—[and decide] I’m going to bump in line. And with their numbers, usually the black vulture can overcome the turkey vulture and get the first little bites.

More fun facts: vultures poop on their legs to cool off, and when threatened, they vomit.

This is a defensive mechanism. They don’t have fangs like a rattlesnake; they don’t have claws like a bobcat. So, their best defense is to throw up what’s in their stomach that was lying on the road for the last three days. And guess what? You’re going to turn away; it’s a great defense.

Find out about all kinds of birds and birding on the Texas parks and Wildlife website.

The Wildlife Restoration program supports our series.

For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.