Friday, September 04, 2009

International Vulture Awareness Day

At the Falls of the Ohio State Park, in Clarksville, IN/Louisville, KY,  the vultures are full time residents, putting on a show for anyone who arrives between 9:30 and 10:00 on a sunny morning.  As the sun shines on the fossil beds, the warm air currents invite the vultures roosting in a nearby tree or electric tower to rise up into the air for the day's hunting. 

When the fish are spawning, however, the vultures may choose to ignore that invitation, and just eat the fish that couldn't get around the dam.  Silver carp 4 feet long are just too yummy to pass up, and the vultures feast till they are stuffed.

We have both Black Vultures and Turkey Vultures on the fossil beds.  The Black Vultures will chase away a Turkey Vulture to get a tasty morsel of fish.  Sometimes the Black Vultures look like a convention of funeral directors to me.

Those early morning visitors get a real treat when the vultures fly at our eye level along the deck of the Interpretive Center.  It's a challenge to get a clear picture when they fly so close and so fast.  This is a wonderful opportunity to teach youngsters the value of vultures.  They are amazed when they realize that a Turkey Vulture's wings may be longer than their father is tall.

The vultures all appreciate the importance of cleanliness, and will perch on the railroad trestle to sunbake any remaining bacteria.  The railroad bridge was built in 1870, so many generations of vultures have posed like this in between the train crossings.

Black Vultures are particularly intelligent, I think.  One morning, a red ball floated downstream, and landed on our beach at the Falls.  A group of curious Black Vultures decided to check it out.  One crept up on the ball and pecked it.  As the ball moved, they all jumped back.  Then another Vulture snuck up on the ball from the other side and pecked it again.  And once again they all moved when the ball did.  The birds looked like soccer player in their black uniforms, and since the World Cup was going on, we called this the Vulture World Cup.  All we needed was one bird with white stripes to act as the referee!
I also volunteer at the Raptor Rehabilitation Center of Kentucky, Inc. , and was delighted to see the Black Vulture chicks in the pen.  What cuties they are in their fuzzy brown feathers!  The chicks squabble over a piece of rat, reaching under each other's wings to steal it away, or tugging it back and forth.  A few weeks later, the fuzzy feathers are gone, and we have to move the adult Turkey Vultures into a different cage.  The young Black Vultures, which aren't even fledged yet, are eating the food intended for the Turkey Vultures. 

These wonderful birds helped me become a Certified Interpretive Guide as the theme for my official presentation.  During lunch break at Bernheim, I couldn't resist going out to the prairie to take some bird photos, and I especially like pictures of the soaring Turkey Vulture.  Only when I got home, did I realize the Vulture shared the sky with a silver jet.  I ask you, which ones enjoyed themselves more - the vulture or the people in the plane?

Many of my blogger buddies will be posting articles on the vultures they know and love, since this is  International Vulture Awareness day.  Just click to see the list.  Have fun!


Anonymous said...

I really loved the jet plane and the vulture- and your tag line.
Great pictures. It's good to see Bernheim get national recognition in your post. Vultures may no longer be underappreciated.

Anonymous said...

great post mom. Good vulture photos as always.

gwendolen said...

The famous vulture World Cup. I can imagine that being fun to watch :D

I love your photo of the vultures on railroad bridge. Beautiful sighting.

Thanks for sharing your love for vultures :)

NCmountainwoman said...

I really loved this post. Great photographs as usual.

Kathiesbirds said...

Well, congrats on becoming a Certifed Interpretive Guide! I did not know you even volunteered here. How marvelous for you and the birds! Love the photos of the vulture chick. I have never seen one before!

Amy said...

The Vulture World Cup, LOL! What a fun thing to witness. Thanks for sharing the story!