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.
You may also like:
Leave a Comment
Top-Viewed Posts Last 30 Days
- POLL: Should the trophy hunting of giraffes be banned? » [7726 Views]
- Tiger family photo surprises scientists » [982 Views]
- POLL: Should the kill quota on cougars be increased in New Mexico? » [792 Views]
- Poll: Do you agree that shooting pheasants is good for the countryside? » [787 Views]
- Poll: Should UK towns and cities be allowed to clip seagulls’ wings? » [718 Views]
- Extreme birdwatching: Twitching in war zones » [666 Views]
- Blue-Bearded Helmetcrest Rediscovered in Colombia, Photographed for First Time » [526 Views]
- POLL: Should spring hunting on Malta be stopped? » [479 Views]
- Rembrandt’s monkey: good news for Africa’s newest primate » [466 Views]
- Newly discovered Brazilian bird may number fewer than 10 individuals » [380 Views]
Top-Viewed Posts Last 12 Months
- » POLL: Should the ban on fox hunting be relaxed in the UK? [10678 Views]
- POLL: Should the trophy hunting of giraffes be banned? » [10334 Views]
- Petition: Stop Lion Canned Hunting in South Africa – Shocking Video » [4168 Views]
- POLL: Should lion canned hunting be banned in South Africa? » [3672 Views]
- Komodo and its Dragons » [3661 Views]
- POLL: Should bear hunting be banned in the US? » [3463 Views]
- Poll: Should hunting of black bears in Florida be allowed? » [2972 Views]
- POLL: Should the slaughter of wolves in British Columbia be banned? » [2940 Views]
- Join the 1st World Giraffe Day and help save these gentle giants » [2878 Views]
- POLL: Should the wolf hunting contest in Idaho be stopped? » [2683 Views]