A Nest for All Seasons A Nest for All Seasons: Were the vultures honoring the dead?

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13 September 2010

Were the vultures honoring the dead?

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Have you eaten your breakfast yet?  You might not want to read this post if you've recently chowed down...you'll see why...

On the way to school today, we passed a bunch of turkeys in the field and the kids missed it, so I turned around and came back to look at them.  When we did I realized, they were not turkeys, but turkey vultures and there was a dead deer on the side of the road.  While that is fairly commonplace, the weird thing was the vultures were all standing 10-20 feet away from the (non-eaten) deer with their wings raised staring at it.  WEIRD.  can I just tell you how creepy this sight was on a foggy morning?  shudder...

Imagine a bunch of these in a field of fog circled around a deer...

Photo credit:  http://kadalodi.baranee.net/?p=237

Anyway, dropped Stu off and came back and there were still some vultures with their wings up and one right next to the deer.  I had to google it....this is what I found...

Basically, it is called the HORALTIC POSE and they do it fairly often.  Theories involve drying their wings (it has been raining) and feeling the wind currents.  There is no definitive answer yet though.  Could it be they honor the dead?  just wondering...

I didn't have a camera or phone (I'm sorry DH!) along to take a photo, but if you are interested, there is a decent photo at this website.

For those of you like me that are interested in more info...read below...and for true nerds...here is a GREAT SITE with lots of vulture watching info...

I find this fascinating...
Behavior:
The Turkey Vulture is gentle and non-aggressive.  Turkey Vultures roost in large community groups, breaking away to forage independently during the day.  These unique birds have a variety of interesting habits:
  The Horaltic Pose
Turkey Vultures are often seen standing in a spread-winged stance.  This is called the "horaltic pose."  The stance is believed to serve multiple functions:   Drying the wings, Warming the body, and Baking off bacteria. 
  Why the Turkey Vulture Vomits
The turkey vulture has few natural predators.  Its primary form of defense is vomiting.  The birds do not "projectile vomit," as many would claim.  They simply cough up a lump of semi-digested meat.  This foul smelling substance deters most creatures intent on raiding a vulture nest.  It will also sting if the offending animal is close enough to get the vomit in its face or eyes. 
In some cases, the vulture must rid its crop of a heavy, undigested meal in order to lift off and flee from a potential predator.  In this case, the regurgitated material has not yet been digested.  Most predators will give up pursuit of the vulture in favor of this free edible offering. 
  Why the Turkey Vulture Urinates on its Legs
The turkey vulture often directs its urine right onto its legs.  This serves two very important purposes.  In the summertime, wetting the legs cools the vulture, as the urine evaporates.  (The vulture cannot sweat like us).  In addition, this urine contains strong acids from the vulture's digestive system, which kill any bacteria that may remain on the bird's legs from stepping in its meal.
 
This information and MORE is taken from the vulture society.  Visit the site for full information HERE!  

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