Scavengers in my Yard

Black vultures

Deer munch on our flower borders, strip foliage to head height, and rub bark off trees with their antlers in the rutting season. We grumble yet feel sad coming across a beautiful animal that died on our property after a road accident. We often find only their bones.

I rarely need to bury a carcass because scavengers soon arrive to devour all the soft tissues. Sometimes, we have more than a dozen Black Vultures crowding over it. It’s not a pretty sight and the stench of the birds can drive you back far more than the corpse. I can walk within a few feet without disturbing them because they have little fear of humans, being protected under the Migratory Birds Act. And why should I scare them away when they provide a free service?

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.


  1. Interesting that there’s so many birds in the group. Are they a family unit that always feed this way, or rather opportunistic and a large number because of the size of the carcass?

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