I roasted a big turkey the other day, and before we went to bed, I tossed the neck out on our lawn, hoping the foxes would enjoy it.
The next morning, it was still untouched, but it wasn’t long before our neighborhood crows were enjoying the feast. Their pleasure was short-lived. Suddenly, in swooped a turkey vulture, about 4 times the size of the crows. We all know that in nature, might equals right, and the crows roosted in a nearby tree, voicing their indignation as the vulture tore away at the meat.
We never had turkey vultures (Cathartes aura) in Quebec when I lived there, (they have since moved in because it’s so much warmer now) but they are common here in RI. They are mostly but not always carrion-eating birds, that spend much of their time soaring in the air, looking for a meal. They have excellent eyesight and a very keen sense of smell which helps them find their food, but their feet are weak, so they can’t pick up things and carry them away. Instead, they usually stand on their meal to eat it.
Many people revile them. After all, they are not the most charismatic and attractive of birds. They smell awful, and will even throw up on you if they are stressed. That said, they fill an important ecological niche, cleaning up dead animals along our roads and elsewhere.
I think they look kind of cool, and those featherless heads perfectly adapted for the job they do.
For my readers who celebrate Thanksgiving, have a wonderful holiday. I am thankful for you!