I just learned, courtesy of my local newspaper, that tomorrow (September 5, 2009) is International Vulture Awareness Day! Consider celebrating by stocking your feeders with carrion (which reminds me of several bad jokes, but I’ll put those at the end), cruising your local highways for road kill (aka, vulture food), or just getting out and observing these magnificent animals.
In the northern parts of North America, we have three species of vultures:
- The most common and widespread is the Turkey Vulture, which can be found pretty much across the lower 48 U.S. states and southern Canada.
- In the southeastern United States is the Black Vulture which, oddly enough, though very common just south of the U.S. border in Mexico, is very rarely found in border states of California, Arizona, and New Mexico.
- The third species is the endangered California Condor, reintroduced populations of which now exist in California, Arizona, and northern Baja California, Mexico.
Two interesting factoids about vultures before I let you go and enjoy them:
- First, worldwide, vultures are an intriguing example of convergent evolution. The New World vultures (which I’ve listed above) share similar diets, behaviors, and even appearance to the Old World vultures (e.g., Lappet-faced Vulture), but the two groups are not related taxonomically.
- Second, many vultures in North America, particularly Turkey Vultures from the western states and provinces, are highly migratory. In fact, Turkey Vultures are one of the most numerous migrating species of raptor at the famed Veracruz River of Raptors hawk migration site in Veracruz, Mexico.
Despite being somewhat misunderstood by many people, vultures are fascinating birds that play critically important roles in virtually all of our terrestrial ecosystems. So, this Saturday, please be Vulture Aware!
Carrion joke #1: Two birders are out in the field. One says: “Look at that Carrion Crow.” The other replies: “What’s he carryin’?”
Carrion joke #2: A vulture is about to get on a plane and has a dead animal under each wing. The flight attendant stops him and says “Sorry, only one carry-on per person.”