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Saturday, June 29, 2013

Vultures: designated as nature's "clean-up" bird, is extremely good at the job

Turkey Vulture soaring

 
   Almost everyone has seen a Turkey Vulture; a very common bird here in north Texas. Probably the bird was soaring gracefully, high in the sky. Less common here is the Black Vulture. Most of the vultures’ time is spent effortlessly riding on air currents, or “thermals”. They hardly ever flap their wings. They efficiently scan several square miles at a time. With their keen eyesight, they’re looking for their next meal, from high above.

   Their meals are decomposing carcasses such as roadkill, or some animal dead of natural causes…it could even be household garbage. It has never been proven that vultures (including the Caracara or “Mexican Eagle”) ever kill their prey, they just get rid of already-dead things that need getting rid of…like squished squirrels.
Black Vulture (l.) and Turkey Vulture (r.)

The vultures' long, bare necks enable them to get deep into the dead carcass without picking up stray flecks of flesh or blood, which could carry disease. Their slightly recurved (hooked) beaks are good for deep probing and tearing rotten flesh.

 




Home, sweet underbrush            Many, many birds in north Texas, about two-thirds of them, depend on “underbrush” for things like shelter, food and protection. This is the name commonly given to any mass of vegetation that’s more than a foot tall, but less than 6 feet above the ground – including shrubs. Remove this underbrush and about two-thirds of north Texas birds will not be attracted to your lot, and will go elsewhere to find shade, nest and eat.

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