Fun Fact Friday: Tomorrow is International Vulture Appreciation Day – a day to celebrate those great – and often underappreciated – scavengers of the sky. Considered ugly by some, vultures are graceful, elegant birds in flight, effortlessly catching thermals as they soar high above the terrain looking for carrion – which they consume with enthusiasm. And it’s a good thing they do: through their invaluable clean-up services, they help prevent the spread of disease and keep the landscape tidy.
Around here, we get two species: Black and Turkey Vultures. You’ll often find these birds circling together, and there’s a very specific reason they do. Black Vultures, like most birds, have no sense of smell, so they rely on Turkey Vultures – with their acute sense of smell – to locate carrion for them. When the Turkey Vultures find a morsel and descend to eat it, the smaller and more aggressive Black Vultures follow them down and chase them off. Once the Black Vultures are finished, the Turkey Vultures move in to eat.
Fun facts: Vultures have excellent immune systems, happily feasting on carcasses without contracting botulism, anthrax, cholera, or salmonella. Utility companies also pay close attention to Turkey Vultures: With their highly refined sense of smell, they can detect leaks in gas pipelines, and will descend to investigate them.
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