Did you know there are 23 vulture species in the world and that at least one type of vulture is found on every continent except Antarctica and Australia?
Vultures are not necessarily the most attractive birds, but they play a crucial role in the ecosystem. These impeccably designed birds clean up dead animals by the roadside and in the wilderness, preventing the spread of diseases from carcasses and restoring the natural balance between flora and fauna.
Currently, two species of vultures are present in Florida; the black vulture and the turkey vulture. The two species are quite distinctive and easy to distinguish from each other.
Black vultures, also called American Black vultures, are dark feathered scavenger birds found in most parts of Florida.
Their beaks are black at the base and light brown at the tips. They are hard and sharp to help them grip and tear into carcasses while feeding.
Unlike other vulture species, black vultures prefer fresh meat and frequently kill live prey like calves and lambs. They target the weak and already dying animals that are easy to kill. However, they still feed on carcasses and carrion.
Black vultures hold their wings straight while soaring, and if you observe them from below, you will notice that the underside of their wings’ tips are silver. In addition, they also fan out their tails while flying and are shorter than the tails of the other species found in Florida.
Size and Shape
Black vultures are large beasts of prey with a fairly wide wingspan. The raptorial birds hold their broad wings flat and angle straight while soaring forward. In addition, their tails are rounded and shorter than those of Turkey vultures, and they also fan them out while flying.
The vulture species have small, bare, reddish heads accentuated by hooked bills.
Relative Size and Measurements
Black vultures are smaller than turkey vultures but larger than Red-tailed hawks.
Length: 23.6- 26.8 inches approx. (60-68 cm)
Weight: 56.4- 777.6 oz approx. (1600-2200 g)
Wingspan: 53.9- 59.1 inches approx. (137-150 cm) slightly superior when compared to a red
Black vultures are a uniform black apart from the white patches on their wingtips.
Typically, black vultures fly in flocks. They also join other scavenger birds such as Hawks and Turkey Vultures to form even larger flocks. However, this is not because they are friends, but because Turkey vultures have a better sense of smell and prey tracking. Black vultures use this to their advantage by letting Turkey vultures lead the way to food and dead carcasses.
Once the Turkey vultures unearth a carcass, the more aggressive Black Vultures cause havoc and chase their cousins away. Black vultures might not be formidable hunters or scavengers, but they are as cunning as they come.
You can also spot the birds scavenging roadkill along Florida highways and picking left-overs in dumpsters in urban areas.
The Black Vultures’ aeronautical style is also quite unique; it starts with strong wing beats followed by short glides. In addition, the birds are experts at using thermal columns to fly long distances while searching for food.
Black vultures rest on top of trees or transmission towers in the mornings as they wait for the air to warm up. Warm air makes flying and gliding easy, which helps them conserve energy.
Black vultures thrive in open areas within forested landscapes. They are not known for building nests and usually lay their eggs on the ground, in caves, or hollowed-out trees.
They lay two eggs, which both sexes take turns taking care of. Black vultures are dedicated parents and feed their young by regurgitating food into their mouths.
If you are out looking for raptor birds in Florida on a clear day, you will probably come across large, soaring birds in the sky- perhaps an eagle or an osprey.
However, if the bird is soaring, making rocky circles with its wings raised, forming a V, there is a high chance you are staring at a Turkey Vulture. Commonly also referred to as Turkey Buzzard, these are consummate scavengers that use their profound sense of smell to find decaying carcasses.
And just like their names suggest, they have a remarkable resemblance to turkeys, and you’d be forgiven for thinking you have spotted a flying turkey the first time you see one.
Size and Shape
Turkey vultures are large dark raptor birds with broad wings. These birds have long tails which extend past their toe tips and extended “fingers” at their wingtip while flying.
The bird species hold their wings up, forming a V shape while soaring when observed from the front or back.
Relative Size and Measurement
Turkey vultures are smaller than eagles, but they are larger than Red-tailed hawks.
Length: 25.1- 31.9 inches (64-81 cm)
Weight: 70.5 oz (2000 g)
Wingspan: 66.9-70.1 inches (170-178 cm)
It is possible to assume Turkey vultures are black at a quick glance. However, you will realize they are dark brown with a pale bill and an unfeathered redhead at a close look. Although the better part of their bodies is dark, and their flight feather’s underside is pale.
Turkey vultures are unsteady soarers. Their wobbling flight and few wing beats are characteristic, unlike other raptor birds. It’s common to find them gliding relatively low to the ground using their developed sense of smell to sniff for dead animals. If not, they will be high up riding thermals for better views.
You may also find these iconic birds on the ground in small assortments clustered around dumpsters and road kills.
Turkey vultures are the most prevalent vulture species in Florida and the country. The species tend to avoid habitats in enclosed forested areas and prefer open plains near forests. However, you can also find them near open roadsides, farm fields, and the other regions near food sources like trash heaps and landfills.
And in cold weather and at night, they perch on towers, deed trees, and poles to get away from the cold ground.
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The Vulture of Florida: Benefits & Challenges
There is no doubt vultures are not the most interesting birds to see in Florida. Most are a solid black with gray skin that is wrinkled. Their faces are terrifying to watch and to make matters worse, they feed on rotten carcasses.
Nevertheless, there are a few good things about Florida vultures.
The Good About Vultures in Florida
First, vultures are cleaner than they seem. For a species that feeds on rotting carcasses, they are surprisingly well adapted for this role. Their bare reddish heads keep off rotting flesh from their feathers. This ensures that they don’t pick up nasty stuff as they feed and move it on their heads.
If they pick up any dangerous bacteria from a corpse with their feet, they easily wash it off using urine.
What’s more, vultures bring a balance to the ecosystem by consuming rot that would otherwise be harmful to other species.
They also feed on roadkill we would stumble upon on our roads and parking yards that we would need to find ways to clean up.
In some sense, they clean the earth from decay, so we don’t have to.
Farmers in Florida have also found ways to use vultures to their advantage. When cows are calving, vultures circle them to try and feed on the young calf, but farmers know to use this behavior to pinpoint where birthing cows are.
Although vultures bring balance to the ecosystem, you do not want them near your home. These wild birds aren’t adapted to living with humans. Below are a few major concerns associated with the vulture population near your home.
Humans don’t get along with vultures in urban settings. Vulture’s talons scratch cars with minimum effort and tear down rubber seals and wiper blades.
Over by the shore in areas like West Palm Beach, Vultures tear vinyl seats on boats and cause a mess on decks.
Even worse, when they choose to attack a home, they can cause severe property damage. For example, they are known for ripping off roof shingles, liners, window caulking, screen porch, and pool screens.
In addition, vultures leave large amounts of vomit on feces, pathways, roofs, and transmitter boxes. Cleaning the mess is a hustle, leave alone replacing damaged structures.
On the one hand, vultures do a great job cleaning up decay from the environment. On the other hand, species such as black vultures prey and kill live animals on farms. They target weak animals, calves, piglets, lambs, and animals giving birth, which is not only bad for the animals but also financially for the farmer.
When attacking these animals, vultures go for eyes before proceeding to eat the live animal, which is not good.
Healthy and Safety Concerns
Excrement left behind by vultures is also a significant concern despite being unsightly and foul. In addition, feces near water points and residential areas pose health concerns.
Vultures’ flight patterns can block visuals and increase the chances of bird strikes when flying aircrafts.
If you have been experiencing vulture issues in your neighborhood, you can attest dealing with vultures is a dangerous and tricky exercise. As such, it’s best to consult a wildlife removal company near you.
By contacting a professional company, here are a few things the company can do for you and your neighborhood.
- The professionals can help you identify attractors you may have in the neighborhood. Livestock and exposed food bags are a few examples.
- The experts can help assess the damage caused and help with repairs
- They can set up sound and light devices to scare off the raptor birds
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Vultures create stunning flight patterns, but you do not want these birds of prey anywhere near your home.
But how exactly does one prevent them from perching around your home? Here are a few suggestions to prevent them from seizing a tree in your compound.
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What do you call a group of vultures?
A group of vultures is termed a “Venue .” Vultures circling on thermals of hot air are referred to as a “Kettle” as they look a lot like rising bubbles in a boiling pot.
Do vultures find food by smell or sight?
All vultures find food by sight, although turkey vultures have a developed sense of smell that they also rely on when scavenging.
Are vultures and Buzzards the same?
Vultures and buzzards are not the same. They belong to varying families of birds.
When is the world’s vulture day celebrated?
The world’s vulture day is celebrated on the first Saturday of September each year. It highlights the importance of birds’ conservation and their importance to the environment.