By Cheryl Conley, TWRC
You always know when an animal has met an untimely and unfortunate death when you see Black Vultures or Turkey Vultures. The Black Vulture has a featherless black-grey head while the Turkey Vulture has a featherless red head. The Black Vulture is also distinguishable by white-tipped wings that can be seen while in flight. Their diets consist primarily of carrion but the Black Vulture will sometimes attack and kill prey.
Turkey Vultures use their eyesight and keen sense of smell to find their food. By flying low, they are able to detect the gases produced when an animal begins to decay. They prefer to feed on animals that are recently dead. Black Vultures can’t smell but will often follow Turkey Vultures to find food.
Most of what vultures eat would make any other animal very sick but they are strong animals with an incredible digestive system and a very strong immune system. Their stomachs are extremely acidic. They can usually survive eating carcasses infected with botulism, anthrax, cholera and salmonella. They rid our environment of what could potentially cause the spread of diseases.
Because of their eating habits, vultures would probably never win a “My Favorite Bird” contest but they play an important role in keeping our environment cleaner and definitely smelling better. They are nature’s clean-up crew.
If you’d like to learn more about the animals that we share our world with, visit our website at www.twrcwildlifecenter.org. Opportunities are also available for in-home and on-site volunteers. TWRC Wildlife Center, 10801 Hammerly Boulevard, Houston, TX 77043. 713-468-TWRC.