Saturday, December 12, 2015

The Day Of The Vultures

If you follow the weather at all you know that the Pacific Northwest and northern California have been getting a crazy amount of rain. For more than a week now the skies have been gray and our rain gauge keeps filling. We run out in the morning to see how much has come down. It's been substantial and good, and we definitely need it, but it sure does get old pretty fast. So when the skies clear if only for a half hour or so, we run out to take a walk and look around. We do have rain gear, but it's just not that inviting to head out into the windy wet mess of a day. We tend to wait for the sun.

On Wednesday we had the brief respite we had been waiting for. I noticed the clearing when I looked out the window to see the silhouette of a very large bird on a wire behind our neighbor's house. It was a very big bird. I was intrigued. It looked like a Turkey Vulture, but they don't typically come and hang out on the wires in our neighborhood. So, I zoomed in to make sure it was a vulture. Yup!
The blue skies beckoned, so we headed out and noticed that the vulture had been  joined by several others. They were gathered on the poles, and of course we wondered why.
So, we walked on the street behind our house and looked around to see if there was any carrion anywhere that would have attracted them. Nope. We didn't see or smell a thing. There were five vultures and several ravens out there, all carrion eaters. Definitely made us wonder what they were sniffing that we couldn't at all.
Or maybe they had just gathered to dry their wings in the brief period of no rain. A little online research told us that this wing-spreading behavior is called the Horaltic Pose. They do it to also raise their body temperature. We certainly understood that in this cool, rainy weather. So, we bid them a good day and headed out for our walk. 

10 comments:

  1. Maybe it was your finger wound that attracted them? Bad joke, sorry. Like most animals, they know what they need, and in this case they needed to dry out. They are unattractive birds, to my way of thinking, but they have their purpose. (Circle of Life and all that)

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  2. When we visited a friend down in SC some years ago, there were dozens of vultures roosting in trees and roofs in the retirement development he lived in. I've never seen so many at one time. Our friend had wisecracks about the vultures and the alligators that lived in the decorative ponds being attracted by the residents...

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  3. Tara-- Hah! I had the same thought. Or, am I dead and I just don't know it? I think vultures are pretty cool birds. Their defensive behaviors are so interesting.

    isabelita-- I wonder how the elders felt about seeing all those vultures hanging out. They can sniff out carrion from 20 miles away!

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  4. I have seen them with their wings spread out even in cool, cloudy conditions. Maybe there is just enough sun light making it through the clouds to warm their black wings.

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  5. Mark-- Yes, they must know how to derive enough sunlight and warmth even in the gray, cloudy days of the north coast. I find them such interesting creatures.

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  6. It would seem that spreading the wings like that would lose heat rather than gain it. But you are correct...they do that to warm themselves and to dry their wings. We have lots of them here in the mountains.

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  7. NCmountainwoman-- I just love how nature works!

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  8. I wonder what Horaltic means...?

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  9. With all the health problems I'm having lately, vultures make me nervous, particularly because I'm going blind and I can't see them coming. :-)

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  10. Scott-- I wondered the same thing. I have no idea. An online search had this, "A birder suggested a different etymology, and it sounds right to me: a mishear of heraldic." Maybe that's it.

    MandT-- I have wondered why they're hanging around our house. I keep thinking, "Uh-oh, what do they know that I don't?" Stay safe!

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