Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Let Us Now Praise Common Birds

Some time ago I mentioned that, like many birders, I tend to be so excited by the prospect of seeing new or unusual birds that I forget to give common birds the attention that they deserve. I was thinking about this earlier today, when I was watching a Turkey Vulture flying over the CyFair college campus.

I seriously doubt that the Turkey Vulture is anyone's favorite bird. When you see them up close on the ground or perched, they are both ugly and ungainly. This impression is reinforced when you see them feeding. I once watched 50 fighting over (and in) the carcass of a dead cow and it was most definitely not a pretty sight.

However, I never fail to be impressed when I watch them in flight. For a start, they are huge: Their 67" wingspan is much bigger than that of any hawk and only about a foot less than that of a Bald or Golden Eagle. Still more impressive, they seem to fly totally without effort, rarely if ever flapping their wings even on the windiest of days. If only we could learn to be so energy efficient - and so graceful!

It is worth bearing in mind, too, that they do an excellent and essential job in disposing of animal remains. Think how many Turkey Vultures there are and how much rotting flesh each one presumably eats every year. Now imagine what our roads and fields would look - and smell - like if there were no Turkey Vultures around.


Birdwoman said...

I've long been an admirer of vultures and the important work they do. It's nice to see them get the praise they deserve.

Jeff said...

They are amazing birds, aren't they? We used to see scores, sometimes hundreds on every birding trip in northern California.

Isaac said...

The most aesthetic time I've seen turkey vultures was when I watched them gliding through the Chisos Basin in Big Bend while I was up top watching the sun set.

Jeff said...

Given how often you see Turkey and Black Vultures in Texas, I was amazed that we didn't see a single one in Big Bend or between Midland-Odessa and Big Bend.