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Wren

Fascinating story, Lance. Here in N. California, we just have turkey vultures -- lots of turkey vultures. A naturalist friend of mine wrote an article about them several years back, and I was amazed to discover that these large birds weighed almost nothing. Maybe two pounds. They're all hollow bones and feathers. And in the case of the black vultures in your neck of the woods, hollow bones, feathers, vomit and excretion. Erghh.

Linkmeister

See, beginning bloggers? This is how it's done well. Open your eyes, think about it, and do a little research.

Rana

This is really cool.

There was a group of black vultures that hung out in a quarry park when we were living in western Indiana, and I used to go to photograph them soaring on the thermals and wading in the shallow parts of the pond in the bottom of the quarry. I found them intriguing and amusing - but I didn't have to live with them peeing on my house!

tyromik

My family and I were driving on a beautiful Saturday several years ago and our route took us past a state mastitis research station. As we looked across the expanse of the pasture we saw a vulture on every fence post across the field. There must have been fifty or sixty of them. Later in the month I passed that way again and stopped by the office to ask if the people there what that was all about. At first they were confused about the question, but one of the field workers figured it out. It was calving season and the vultures have a taste for the afterbirth. They were just patiently waiting for lunch.

On the cooling system, I only learned about that recently from a falconer I know. He told me that most raptor trainers hesitate to work with them for that reason, despite their intelligence. This is understandable.

Belvoir

Interesting stuff. Nature is amazing, no?

I wonder if it's a human/cultural thing, that scavengers are ugly- hyenas, vultures..
But we find predators beautiful- big cats, eagles, wolves, owls..

Predators are objectively more beautiful. We ascribe them a certain nobility and "work ethic", and conversely we dislike scavengers. It's as if the "morality" of their adaptation, craven and opportunistic, is reflected in how they look. I'm just thinkin' aloud, fascinating to me how we "see' animals in culture and in history- every animal seems to have some symbolism in human cultures.

Avedon

Wait a minute, did Green Chimneys move out of Brewster? Damn.

(Yeah, thousands of years ago, I went to school there. One of my roommates had a father named Thelonious.)

Cyndy in Central Pennsylvania

Thank you for this story; I think it may have solved a mystery for me. Early this summer a huge flock of vultures moved into the neighborhood. Like you, I thought how strange that there were so many turkey buzzards together (I often count at least 25 at a time). We live along great creeks in the mountains of Central PA--obviously good feeding grounds for these birds that are finding their way north. I'll have to and look for signs of damage you described (thankfully, they live across the street from me, providing a great view but not the poo). Your article was peppered with wonderful details and resources, mixed nicely with your own observations, mirroring exactly our experience here.

marvin

this morning we were awakened to the sound of what sounded like carpenters or roofers on our shingled roof. i went outside to look and there were about 30 to 40 buzzards, on our roof. i havent been on the roof to inspect the damage but it sounded like we might have some. a few flew but a lot just sat there and stared at me. bold s.o.b.'s.. when my australian shepherd started barking and chasing after some in nearby trees a few more flew away. i have seen as many as fifty to a hundred soaring high in the sky, they have never been on the roof our house.
marvin (in the foothills of piedmont north carolina.)

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