Black Vulture

Black Vulture
Photo: Inge Curtis

This fine fellow sat on a wooden post for a portrait. Never long out of sight in the skies around here, Blacks are the more sociable of the two species of vulture. With a poor sense of smell compared to Turkey Vulture cousins it makes sense to have more eyes on the ground for scarce carrion.

A wake of vultures (nice collective noun for a bird clothed in black who pores over a cadaver) is reluctant to leave a meal when disturbed, for example, by traffic passing close to roadkill. Although their appearance, habits and smell are repellant to most people, they do a fine job clearing flesh that would go putrid and grow pathogenic bacteria that can harm later diners with less acidic, and hence less sterilizing, stomachs.

By Roger Gosden

British-born scientist specializing in reproduction & embryology. Career as professor & research director spanned from Cambridge to Cornell's Weill Medical College in NYC. Married to Lucinda Veeck Gosden, embryologist for the first successful IVF team in America. Retired early to Williamsburg, Virginia, to write and recover from 'nature deficit disorder'. Currently a visiting scholar at William & Mary.

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