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The Black Vulture and the Turkey Vulture

Throughout the glorious works of J.R.R. Tolkien, crows, vultures, and buzzards were said to be spies for Morgoth, and later, Sauron. Now, I find the allegorical beauty of Tolkien fascinating and all, but I do not find anything very spooky about birds.

I'm sort of sceptical about any bird mythologies or urban legends—but that's probably because I've never had a raven or any other type of bird show up and ominously repeat, "Nevermore" to me. They make shotguns and all sorts of things as a response to talking Ravens.

However, this is an article about vultures. There's nothing creepy about vultures. They're nature's perfect, winged janitorial crew.

The Turkey Vulture - Cathartes Aura



Now, I in no way mean to disparage a hard working janitor by comparing him or her to an ugly bird. I think that if you consider the turkey vulture and its fine contributions to our society, you'll realize that honest work is honest work, and that the birds that sit in offices trying to figure out how to rip off janitors by trading derivatives and toxic loans— those are the birds that ought to be shot. Probably though, and we all know that it's true - prisons are full of Turkey Vultures, and the birds that rip them off get bird bonuses, pats on the back, and, strangely enough, enjoy cremation of forty foot Babylonian deity birds structures somewhere in California.

John Crow here, however, foots the bill for all those toxic loan legislating birds out there, and there are more of these hard working carrion buzzards than there are devil worshipping globalist government agenda birds - and we Turkey Vultures are also BIGGER. Obviously, life here in bird land is bigoted and backwards. The Turkey Vultures don't care, they aren't paying much attention to office birds, and their toxic societal agendas. If the Turkey Vultures ever DO start to care though - they'll probably start eating office birds. I'm positive that big ivory tower office birds are rather tasty.

Looks like I missed some perfectly good cremation of Care references in the paragraph above, oh well, nobody cares.

Don't give me no Jive, Turkey!

The Turkey Vulture


Behold The Perforated Nostrils of The Consumer of Death


Turkey Vulture Chicks ROCK!


The Turkey Vulture - Cathartes aura

Often just derisively referred to as a "Buzzard," the Turkey Vulture has many names in the English speaking world, Turkey Buzzard (or just Buzzard), and in some areas of the Caribbean as the John Crow or Carrion Crow. I'm rather ashamed to admit that until recently, I paid so little attention to these scavengers of corpse buffet that I'd not even realized that there was more than one kind of Vulture common to my North Eastern Texas region. The Turkey Vulture is a large bird, and often has a wingspan of over 60 inches in length - surely this is the largest bird of flight that one encounters here locally - with the exception of those who still have some non native Emu around - it's bound to be the largest bird a Texan normally sees in the wild.

These Turkey Vultures sometimes live to 30 years or more when in captivity. I can't imagine WHY someone would have one of these captive - somewhere there is some foul, reeking road kill that lacks itself a vulture.

It is a criminal offence in the United States of America to harm a Turkey Vulture. I think it helps when something is humanized with names such as Johnny Crow, but surely the reason for it's protection, via the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, is not that they are endangered (they aren't), but that they do a job that we can all appreciate.

What seems obvious to me is that this bird gets it's name from it's purple/red non feathered face. The Turkey Vulture has no song to sing to us, and if it did - oh how the legions of emo and goth kids would love to hear it, instead, it grunts and hisses - it has no syrinx.

Seldom seen flapping it's long black wings, the Turkey Vulture likes to glide, and it does this very well, sniffing as it goes, for the gasses of something dead and decaying.

Turkey Vultures can be found year round in Texas, Mexico, and the entire continent of South America. They are only found in the American Mid West during the Summers, but are sometimes year round residents of places as far North and East as New York State. They typically produce two chicks a year, and feed their young regurgitated dead stuff.

The talons of the Turkey vulture are blunt, and it's feet are weak - there is no threat from this bird to living things, it's not going to swoop down and grab anything. It might try to bum a smoke off of you from time to time though. Sometimes all white or "leucistic" Turkey Vultures appear - these are NOT albino birds, as that would be a completely different biological condition.

Despite the fact that these birds are protected by law, and do a wonderful job of what they do - not everyone among us values the lives of Johnny Crow and his Kin. Eagles, especially federal government bald eagles. . . .sometimes eat young Turkey Vultures. I suppose the federal bald eagles also build private prisons for them, and own stock in the companies that build them at a profit. Also, raccoons, opossums, and foxes like to oppress the less fortunate buzzards. Only pigs are equal at the animal farm, but some pigs, naturally, are more equal than others.

The Black Vulture - Coragyps atratus


Good Times With Black Vultures - I'm the One on the Left, see me?


The Black Vulture of Doom - Coragyps atratus

I assure you with all that I know that the Turkey Vulture is no sort of omen at all. I'm not so certain here, but I sort of find the Black Vultures a bit more ominous. Probably, they just never outgrew that mid 90's Goth fad. The Black Vulture is, in fact, a killer. This buzzard is not just a carrion scavenger, it can and will kill things for a meal too. Not a picky eater at all, the Black Buzzard also enjoys eating things that are not yet living, and thus can not exactly be killed - eggs. Please try to contain yourself here - my hard drives are less than two percent fragmented, and so your arguments concerning how sentient are the unborn within a bird or reptile's eggs - are all invalid.

In the Holy Book of Bokonon,in the additions that I made myself, but never got added to the text, we Bokononions righteously sing

She Takes To The Night Like A Bird In Flight - Who Will Be Her Buzzard?

Buteo buteo - a Common European Buzzard - No Relation To American VULTURES


No Old World Relation

The Black Vulture also has a six foot wingspan like it's cousin, the Turkey Vulture, but it's still a slightly smaller bird. What's really important to understand here is that when the term "buzzard" is thrown around to describe these birds - it's just vernacular ying yang, and is totally inaccurate when looked at from the European or Queen's English perspective. These VULTURES are no relation at all to European Buzzards. European Buzzards are closely related to eagles, hawks, and harriers.

It's clear to anyone looking at the pictures here that the European Buzzards are medium sized raptors. I should also point out that they are not exclusive to Europe, but also find suitable habitation in portions of Asia. . . .sort of like, well, Europeans.

As disturbing as you might find it, and please feel as free to be as disturbed as you like here, the Vultures of the Americas are more related to storks than they are to old world buzzards. That's right, Vultures are kin to storks, the bringer of babies. Hey, I've been around for a minute - and I ain't never seen no freakin' stork bring nobody a baby. Shouldn't the abortionist be shooting storks, or something, by now? Just wondering - it's what I do.

Black Vulture Distribution Map


The California Condor - Gymnogyps californianus, a Relative


What IS a Vulture?

The word Vulture is derived from the Latin vulturus, which means tearer, a reference to it's feeding habits - but of course we are talking about the Americas here, and not Italy - but old, time honoured habits of linguistics don't die easily. The species specific Latin term atratus, means "clothed in black," and there can be no arguments as to the relevance and accuracy of the Latin translation to that bit of Taxonomical jargon.

There are six species of New World Vultures - and this does include the California Condor, one of the largest and heaviest birds of flight in the world, also one of the rarest. The EXACT taxonomy of any of these birds is unclear. While new world vultures perform the same ecological role as do the old world buzzards - it's very clear that they evolved from different ancestors.

While the facts are that animals and humans evolve, evolution is NOT an exact science. It's a bit of biological and political propaganda that is a part of that foul "new atheist movement" to just put these things into a little corner of the mind and say "this evolution business is all done." No, it isn't done - it's an entire science unto itself, and will never be done.

This bird business is beyond me - and while entertaining myself a bit here I hope that you've been properly entertained as well. So long as you're interested in learning then you are teachable - but once you think you know it all, you are a fool, unless of course, like me, you are the King's fool already.

Andean Condor - South America's Great Vulture - The Largest Vulture Of All


Questions & Answers

Question: How can I get vultures off of my deck railing?

Answer: I would first wonder are they black vultures, or turkey vultures? The black vulture is a bit of a predator. Were the birds hanging out on your deck railing black vultures, then I would wonder was there something beyond your deck the birds might think of as a potential meal. Black vultures MOSTLY are scavengers, but they will totally kill small, typically newborn animals, and they will totally eat eggs of any animal they can. If your deck railing birds are turkey vultures, then I'm unsure of what might attract them to your deck, outside of your obviously fantastic deck railing building facility.

You just can't legally hurt those birds. I can imagine that were you to own a nice adult cat, then that cat, being unconstrained by human jurisprudence, could do whatever it wished with the birds.

Question: Can a vulture's egg bring you luck?

Answer: I'd say the answer here is yes, a vulture's egg can bring you luck. The luck would absolutely be BAD luck, as it is illegal to own a vulture. It's illegal to kill a vulture, and vultures should be left entirely alone at all times so they can perform their 'job,' if you will, as nature's avian clean-up crew.


The Logician from then to now on on August 15, 2018:

That reminds me once I was driving in the mountains during a bad snow storm at night and It was snowing so hard I could hardly see the road in front of me when something hit my radio antennae. I stopped to see what happened as I didn’t see anything but the antennae going boing. Unbelievably out in the middle of nowhere in this snow storm a small bird had flown into the antennae and broke its neck! What are the odds? Like finding a needle in a haystack? There was no flock of birds just the one. Maybe in the dark with snow making it hard to see it was drawn to my headlights.

Wesman Todd Shaw (author) from Kaufman, Texas on August 14, 2018:

It's a major problem here too, when driving on a black top road, especially a farm to market road. Oh there will be a dead skunk or coyote or something they are feeding on, and suddenly you've hit one with your windshield.

Suzie from Carson City on August 14, 2018:

Never met an attractive human vulture. Their attitudes make them UGLY!

The Logician from then to now on on August 14, 2018:

Wes, you certainly made this interesting! I like your writing style and your humility!

I am surprised however you left out one of the most interesting things about these vultures besides that they feed by thrusting their heads into the body cavities of rotting animals.

Throw some road kill into your back yard under something so it can’t be seen from above (preferably if you live out in the country) and as soon as it starts to rot you will find turkey vultures circling your yard.