The Black Vulture and the Turkey Vulture

Updated on November 16, 2017

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

Source

Buzzard

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

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Behold The Perforated Nostrils of The Consumer of Death

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Turkey Vulture Chicks ROCK!

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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

Source

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

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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

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      • tsadjatko profile image

        3 months ago from now on

        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 profile imageAUTHOR

        Wesman Todd Shaw 

        3 months ago from Kaufman, Texas

        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.

      • fpherj48 profile image

        Paula 

        3 months ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

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

      • tsadjatko profile image

        3 months ago from now on

        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.

        They have an extraordinary sense of smell. They have been known to be able to smell carrion from over a mile away which is very unique in the bird world. The turkey vulture has the largest olfactory (smelling) system of all birds.

        I used to be an amateur taxidermist and these turkey vultures were so prevalent on Maryland roads eating road kill that people would bring them to me after they got hit by cars. I made some money mounting them and it was good practice, went over well in college dorm rooms (along with my specialty, stuffed bats) but whenever a vulture was brought to me the smell was almost unbearable, made me wonder how they could smell anything but themselves.

      • Wesman Todd Shaw profile imageAUTHOR

        Wesman Todd Shaw 

        3 months ago from Kaufman, Texas

        Well Paula, birds are much more honest about who they are. American vultures don't make any pretense at beauty, but human vultures are often very very attractive.

      • fpherj48 profile image

        Paula 

        3 months ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

        Wesman.....I'm not particularly a "bird" person...but I like "pretty little birdies" that come to my yard. The kind of vulture I've ever seen up close are human vultures...and by gosh, there's a whole lot of them everywhere, nowadays!

      • Wesman Todd Shaw profile imageAUTHOR

        Wesman Todd Shaw 

        3 months ago from Kaufman, Texas

        Well thanks for the story, Tammy. I like the idea of people rescuing baby vultures!

      • profile image

        Tammy Payne 

        3 months ago

        I agree with most of this post, but the part about being friends with one because for five years now I have one not in captivity but she comes and goes as she please .. she was only a week or so old when she was discovered in a busy parking lot when i picked her up out of harms way and I took her home that same even her family also showed up throughout the years she continued to say with me but goes out with her family she eat at home but she is a little smell but she baths in her pool .. so just know in life No matter how foul things are someone has to step up to save life ..you have no idea how loving she is ..and I would not give her up for all the prufume in the world and my husband is worsts them I about her ..

      • Wesman Todd Shaw profile imageAUTHOR

        Wesman Todd Shaw 

        7 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

        Thank you VERY much, fashion!!! Right this moment I'm thinking about this guy:

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andean_Condor

        And making a hub page about them! :=[D>

      • profile image

        fashion 

        7 years ago

        This is very interesting and informative hub.Thanks you took stand for the black and turkey vultures. They have an important role in nature.

      • Wesman Todd Shaw profile imageAUTHOR

        Wesman Todd Shaw 

        7 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

        Thank you very much, Sir! Yes, the American ones are often just plain UGLY. I think the European buzzard is an attractive bird - both the European Buzzard and the American Vulture do a fine job at some ugly work though.

      • Jason Oleinik profile image

        Gleb Oleinik 

        7 years ago from Richmond, BC, Canada

        Entertaining and informational. I didn't know very much about Vultures besides their bald heads before this.

      • Wesman Todd Shaw profile imageAUTHOR

        Wesman Todd Shaw 

        7 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

        Hissing and grunting - it's what all birds would do if they knew what humanity was up to. Chan Chich will be importing Turkey Buzzards when the plague comes through their again.

      • profile image

        Plumbing 

        7 years ago

        So the Black Vulture is not a very charismatic bird. I've never heard anyone visiting Chan Chich confess that this species was on their "most wanted" list.

      • Wesman Todd Shaw profile imageAUTHOR

        Wesman Todd Shaw 

        7 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

        Yeah - I DEFINITELY need to visit there! I'd be in LOVE with the scenery. I'm just. . . .really REALLY skinny. . .and would be.. .COLD!

      • FloraBreenRobison profile image

        FloraBreenRobison 

        7 years ago

        Chilliwack is just across the border from Washington State, about an hour and a half from Vancouver. :)

      • Wesman Todd Shaw profile imageAUTHOR

        Wesman Todd Shaw 

        7 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

        Ah! I see. Of course I looked at your profile and . . .didn't get that info. I'd love to visit your "neck o the woods!" I know it's beautiful up there. I'd probably freak out from the cold for a few years if I moved there.

        I'd love to see the wildlife there, and totally absorb all that new culture.

      • FloraBreenRobison profile image

        FloraBreenRobison 

        7 years ago

        I've only ever seen them from a distance. I live in Southern British Columbia- They do breed inthis province, but as I live in a city section , I've only seen them way up in the sky.

      • Wesman Todd Shaw profile imageAUTHOR

        Wesman Todd Shaw 

        7 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

        What's a Thompson Contender? I'm just envisioning a total collapse where bullets would be unavailable, or all looted and stolen from stores, etc.

      • 50 Caliber profile image

        50 Caliber 

        7 years ago from Arizona

        Why a bow? you'll peg your squirrels to a tree 20 ft out of reach and your arrow on the rabbit will get bent or lost passing all the way through, a 5.56 single shot Thompson contender much better with a red dot and you can bum rounds off military boys.

      • Wesman Todd Shaw profile imageAUTHOR

        Wesman Todd Shaw 

        7 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

        Dusty, you just made it very clear to me that in case of an apololyptic economic meltdown - I'd best get myself a compound bow and some arrows, and stick to hunting small stuff like rabbits and Squirrel.

      • Wesman Todd Shaw profile imageAUTHOR

        Wesman Todd Shaw 

        7 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

        Hey Sueswan- THANK YOU VERY VERY MUCH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      • Wesman Todd Shaw profile imageAUTHOR

        Wesman Todd Shaw 

        7 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

        Hey FloraBreenRobison - I like G. Peck as well, I'm thinking that you must live somewhere way up North on the Eastern or Western Side. I gotta check now.

      • 50 Caliber profile image

        50 Caliber 

        7 years ago from Arizona

        Wesman, you got mail, but them vultures are awesome, I hunted Russian Bore on the 3rd fork of the Eel River in northern California. After my 1st trip there I had to do some research at the library to see what was in the tree tops that followed the hogs, we learned watching them watch us and knowing why we were there would put us on the hogs on day one just by looking at where the vultures sat. The hogs would find a wet mess of grass and other growth,worms and what ever the could dig up and like a freight train they moved either up the hil or down the hill at evening time, and in the first hour of morning they moved back on the same trail.I preferred to wait for a down hill run, but the vultures would be there first in the trees. So we ambushed the running hogs and the vultures got the guts, then the hogs changed up and we watched the birds sleep in the tree limbs above the hogs, we stayed 10 days with a 2 hog limit as part of a membership club that collected 750 a year and leased ranches in California from all the way north for antelope, deer, bear, hogs and fishing, to all the way south for mostly fishing in ranch lakes and desert deer. We also did the Arizona and Nevada, Colorado Elk and Antelope.

        The California Condor was protected and the listed stats were like 27 of them all told, on the verge of extinction, I found that to be bullshit, on the 12,000 acre ranch on the Eel River there were that many in each tree around us, we spent the day time popping Jack rabbits and ground squirrels and now and then coyotes and the vultures would swarm around us and eat well. The ranchers wanted all the ground squirrels gone as the dug holes that cattle would step off into breaking a leg and then having to be put down before market costing the owners big money. The limit on hogs was set by the club to insure all members had something to take home. The state was open to Texas style limits now, kill them all. 13 piglets per sow up to three times a year makes a destructive army fast, and hard to control. Lots of feed for vultures. dust

      • Wesman Todd Shaw profile imageAUTHOR

        Wesman Todd Shaw 

        7 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

        Hey Christopher - man you're always good for some great stories that I'd probably have never heard otherwise!! Great info!

      • Wesman Todd Shaw profile imageAUTHOR

        Wesman Todd Shaw 

        7 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

        Truckstop Sally!!!!! Heck yeah, it's really an ugly bird. . . .that does a beautiful job that we need it to do!

      • profile image

        Sueswan 

        7 years ago

        Thanks for standing up for the black and turkey vultures. They play an important part in nature.

        You have a way of writing that no matter what the topic, it would be educational and entertaining.

        Voted up and awesome!

      • Wesman Todd Shaw profile imageAUTHOR

        Wesman Todd Shaw 

        7 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

        Thanks Fallen Valkyrie! I was thinking of you whilst I was doing a second bird hub. My folks are into bird watching now, and have some books about Tejas birds. I thumbed through it, and discovered that there was more than one kind of Vulture around here - and then I saw some of the Black Vultures on our road. The Turkey Vultures. . .are just everywhere when something is dead, the Blacks . . not so much.

      • Wesman Todd Shaw profile imageAUTHOR

        Wesman Todd Shaw 

        7 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

        hahahaha! I bet, Dusty - surely those fuckers are less fearful of us than are other birds, they love hunters and all drivers - that's for sure!

      • Wesman Todd Shaw profile imageAUTHOR

        Wesman Todd Shaw 

        7 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

        ANTHONY!!!!!!!!!!!!! Thanks for the compliment! I'd have to be near to starvation to tell you, so I'll probably let you know here in a year or two!

      • Wesman Todd Shaw profile imageAUTHOR

        Wesman Todd Shaw 

        7 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

        Fiddleman - THANK YOU, SIR! I just love to write about whatever crosses my mind, I guess.

      • Wesman Todd Shaw profile imageAUTHOR

        Wesman Todd Shaw 

        7 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

        Miles Cole - come on down and create a Hubpages account, my man! We need you here!

      • Wesman Todd Shaw profile imageAUTHOR

        Wesman Todd Shaw 

        7 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

        Hey Tex Shelters, THANK YOU! Man, I used to work for a dude that imported cocaine from Peru, he gave not a fuck about condors. Now he sells weapons overseas for the CIA!

      • FloraBreenRobison profile image

        FloraBreenRobison 

        7 years ago

        I've never seen a vulture up close. Speaking of referring to a turkey vulture as a turkey buzzard, there is another song abut these birds. The theme song to Mackenna's Gold starring Gregory Peck is "Old Turkey Buzzard." I'm a big fan of Peck even though this is not my favourite of his westerns.

      • christopheranton profile image

        Christopher Antony Meade 

        7 years ago from Gillingham Kent. United Kingdom

        Thanks for a brilliant and educational hub Wesman.

        Vultures are not just interesting, but incredibly indespensible, as they discovered in India. 95% of their vultures have died due to using a cheap drug called diclofenac in livestock. The vultures were eating the dead cattle, and then dying themselves.

        Now there is no vultures to eat the cattle, and disease is spreading among all the humans.

        So vultures are GOOD. Long may they survive.

      • Truckstop Sally profile image

        Truckstop Sally 

        7 years ago

        Very interesting! My favorite picture is the chick. Maybe only a Mama could love one. Ha!

      • profile image

        Fallen Valkyrie 

        7 years ago

        Turkey vultures are awesome; thanks for giving them the appreciation they deserve! Drive me bonkers when people look up, see a large black bird and say, "oh lookit the buzzard" when there isn't any such bird in sight!

        Fantastic hub - as always!!

      • 50 Caliber profile image

        50 Caliber 

        7 years ago from Arizona

        Wesman, great article on some cool birds to watch. I've been up and personal with a few on hunting trips where they get anxious and jump on a kill before their turn. They are happy to back off to a tree limb though and the gut piles are gone pretty quick. dust

      • profile image

        Anthony W Allsop 

        7 years ago

        Great post, it's almost a book. I wonder what these Turkey Vultures taste like?

      • profile image

        Fiddleman 

        7 years ago

        Good write Wes. One of Nature's most interesting birds.

      • profile image

        Miles Cole 

        7 years ago

        Entertaining and educational, Very well presented and written.

      • profile image

        Tex Shelters 

        7 years ago

        Cool. They are amazing birds.

        I was able to see the amazing flight of the Condors in Colca Canyon in Peru.

        http://www.go2peru.com/webapp/ilatintravel/articul...

        It was well worth the trip. Thanks for the education and work!

        Peace,

        Tex Shelters

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