Mar 212012
 

Vulture.

What is your initial reaction when you hear that word? Only a face a mother could love? I guess they aren’t the most attractive birds to most, but to me they’re something else. They’re intelligent, charismatic and have some of the most intriguing, if unpleasant adaptations. Whether it be Old World or New World Vultures they all enthrall me with they’re methods of survival. Many are familiar with the characteristics of Vultures, even young children thanks to a well loved film, the Jungle Book; bald heads and large hooked beaks. Most though, aren’t familiar with some of the traits I marvel at, nor are they familiar with the current and worsening plight of Vultures across Europe, Africa and the far East.

Vultures are scavengers and they play a large part in cleaning up the environment they live in. Finding a suitable carcass appears to be easy work, by soaring on large, broad wings and making use of warm air thermals Vultures rise to dizzying heights and are able to survey much land with well developed eyesight. It is also thought that some Vultures have a well developed sense of smell in comparison to other Raptors, the American Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura) being one whose sense of smell is strongest.

Once they’ve found a carcass, Vultures do not hesitate to get stuck in; here the bald head comes into play. To prevent blood and bacteria remaining on feathers which should cover the head, vultures do not have any. In the heat of the sun, any bacteria which are present are ‘burnt’ away. Similarly, protection of the feet is managed with excrement, which is deliberately directed down the legs. This successfully removes any bacteria, and as it evaporates acts as a sunscreen and coolant. Not very nice, but very effective.

Unfortunately, these well adapted birds were not prepared for human intervention and the contamination of their food source with NSAIDS. Across much of the Old World Vultures range (Europe, Africa and Asia) the use of veterinary drugs have demolished the once booming populations. Non-Steroidal Anti Inflammatory Drugs became freely available for farmers to purchase and treat their cattle with. Sadly, these drugs cause kidney failure in Vultures, leaving three Asian species Critically Endangered. The Slender-billed Vulture (Gyps tenuirostris), the Indian Vulture (Gyps indicus) and the White Rumped Vulture (Gyps benegalensis) demonstrate the fastest declines in bird species, with drops of 95% since 1990.

In addition, the Vultures have to contend with the development of many areas and the erection of power lines, deliberate poisoning and lack of understanding from local people. Despite conservation efforts, much of the general public remain completely unaware of the plight of our flying cleaners. NSAIDS have been banned but are shamefully still used and continue to ransack the remaining vulture numbers.

We need to be aware of what is going on and must develop new and innovative ways of replenishing our Vulture numbers. They may be ugly too many, but they are truly interesting. Not many species can empty their stomachs on demand to deter a predator, allowing the final pickings of a carcass.

Courtesy and Copyright Craig Shaw

Share on social media:

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail

Rachel Ann French

Currently living an working on the Isle of Mull, Scotland as Mull Eagle Watch ranger. Spend most days educating the public about our eagles and wildlife and helping them see the real thing. Also work with children and schools. BSc Hons Animal Conservation. Passionate about wildlife, conservation, rewilding and an advocate in letting our children have a free-range childhood.

Leave a Comment

5 Comments on "Ugly? Only the plight."

Notify of
avatar
Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Member

Incredible birds, truly amazing and so vital to the environment.

Angad Achappa
Guest

I dont know if people find them attractive or not, I have spent time photographing them and I absolutely love these birds, they are wonderful to look at and show so much character. Nice post!! 🙂

trackback

[…] we see many vultures of various species. They gather around a donkey. The donkey apparently died recently, as its […]

Supertrooper
Member

Rachel, a fascinating article about this poorly understood species. Earlier this month we published an article with a link to an article written by Tadaferua Ujorha from Nigeria – this also makes a good read.
http://focusingonwildlife.com/news/vultures-on-the-verge-of-extinction/

wpDiscuz

Top-Viewed Posts Last 30 Days

  1. Saudi authorities sound warning on illegal hunting in rented farms [1497 Views]
  2. POLL: Should fox-hunting laws be strictly enforced? [1158 Views]
  3. POLL: Should the bear bile trade ban be strictly enforced? [985 Views]
  4. POLL: Should the harvesting of wild turtles be banned? [923 Views]
  5. POLL: Should this Canadian pipeline project be scrapped to save killer whales? [890 Views]
  6. The man saving 30,000 seabirds [791 Views]
  7. Elephant refugees flee to last stronghold in Africa [775 Views]
  8. 7 stunning forest birds we could soon lose forever [774 Views]
  9. Gray Squirrels versus Red Squirrels – The Facts [708 Views]
  10. Another Hen Harrier shot dead sparking fears for rare bird of prey [665 Views]

Top-Viewed Posts Last 12 Months

  1. White Killer Whale Adult Spotted for First Time in Wild [41920 Views]
  2. POLL: Should there be a worldwide ban on fur farms? [16661 Views]
  3. POLL: Should the annual Canadian seal hunt be banned? [14027 Views]
  4. POLL: Should fur farming be banned in the European Union? [13457 Views]
  5. POLL: Should Congress disband Wildlife “Killing” Services? [11093 Views]
  6. Gray Squirrels versus Red Squirrels – The Facts [8540 Views]
  7. POLL: Should driven grouse-shooting be banned? [8468 Views]
  8. POLL: Should grouse shooting on highland estates be banned? [8287 Views]
  9. POLL: Should black bears be killed for Royal Guards’ fur caps? [8019 Views]
  10. POLL: Should China’s dog meat festival be banned? [7321 Views]