Featured species – vultures

This is a baby Vulture. Photo by Stephanie Boor

This little fluff ball is a baby Vulture.
While talking with one of our young volunteers at the Center as we took a “break” from our feeding and cleaning, the young man said “I love birds – I love ALL birds…except Vultures…don’t like vultures”. Having been there myself at one time, I had to smile as I suggested that he picture what the world would look like without them. Oh, yeah…they are important, aren’t they? Pity the poor Vulture – their very name is used when speaking of person who has a tendency to take unfair advantage of others. Nothing could be farther from the
truth however – they are a vital part of “nature’s clean-up crew”.

Florida is home to 2 species of vultures – the Turkey Vulture that has a reddish head with wings that form a “V” while soaring and has a longer and narrower tail than the second Florida vulture – the Black Vulture. In our area, the Black Vultures are more commonly seen – they have a black head, wings that are held straight while soaring and their tail feathers are “fanned” while soaring. These Black Vultures also show white patches near the tips of their wings. On the Turkey Vulture the full length of the lower part of the wing is white. If you see a bunch of vultures circling, it may be worth taking a closer look, there may very well be a bald eagle circling as well. Look for the bald eagles with their white heads and tails. Bald eagles also fly with straighter wings; vultures fly with their wings in a V-shape.

Neither species builds nests – they lay their eggs (usually 2) in covered ground areas. Both parents incubate the eggs, which hatch in approx. 40 days. The babies are fed regurgitated food by both parents and are ready to fly 8 to 10 weeks after hatching and truly fit the saying “so ugly, they’re cute”! Vultures are carrion eaters and will often be seen by the side of the road disposing of “road kill” – they do the same with dead animals wherever found. It has been estimated that one Black Vulture does over $10,000 worth of cleanup per year. The Black Vultures are the more aggressive of the 2 species and have been known to attack incapacitated animals.
They are a federally protected species and it is illegal to harm or kill them without a permit. They are also known to – for whatever reason – occasionally “attack” screens, shingles, and rubber on cars. They are easily frightened away by noise. Although vultures are silent most of the time, they are known to hiss or even “woof” like a dog when excited.

Black Vulture
Turkey Vulture
Black or Turkey Vulture soaring