110 W. New York Ave.
DeLand, FL 32720
By Lynn Bowen
posted Jan 13, 2013 - 10:31:04am
Many people consider vultures to be very villainous, vicious, vile birds. Actually, these vagabonds, many in Volusia County, are nature's cleanup crew and therefore rather valuable.
Almost any creature that has died from old age, accident, violence, or any other cause, is a potential meal for a vulture, and people don't have to do the horrible job of getting rid of a nasty carcass.
I have personally seen one try to steal a sandhill-crane chick, but the crane parents flapped their wings, pranced, and yelled until the vulture flew away. So they do eat live creatures sometimes. Another time, I witnessed two black vultures avidly watch a Florida softshell turtle laying eggs, and I know what was on their minds! Both of these events happened at Lake Woodruff National Wildlife Refuge.
Black vultures are about 25 inches long with a 52-inch wingspan. These aviators have black feathers, except for silver wingtips. These 4.4-pound birds have dark-gray, featherless heads and necks, to make preening easier. Preening and cleaning skin is surely easier than cleaning feathers, so nature arranged this for them. Juveniles, however, have feathers on their neck.
Vultures are wonderful fliers who soar and glide in the sky as they search for food. They probably enjoy sailing on breezes. These nonvocal scavengers are usually silent and merely bark or hiss occasionally.
Their breeding time is January through August. They don't bother to build a nest, but, instead, lay one to three eggs on a bare patch of ground in dense saw palmetto, a cave, a pile of rocks or a hollow log.
They range over the beaches, swamps, prairies, and woods in the southeastern U.S., extending to South America.
To avoid black vultures, just watch them from a distance. However, I have walked through a flock of them when they were on the same path as me at a local park, and they hopped a few steps away and never attempted to hurt me. People are too large for them.
Perhaps vultures aren't quite the uncouth creatures that disgust many people. They use their vim and vigor to our advantage! However, they usually stink because of their habits.
— Bowen lives in DeLand. Send email to her at email@example.com.
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