I used to think I knew a great deal about vultures. That they circle weak animals, waiting for it to die so that they can feast on it. That they are bad hunters so only feed on carcasses instead of fresh meat. That they are ugly, sinister, vicious…
It was not until I went on a wildlife tour and got to see the vultures with my own eyes that I got interested in them. I started to ask questions to the locals about these mysterious birds. I also did a lot of research about them. It turns out, vultures are so much more than their stereotype.
I don’t want anyone making the same theories about these mysterious but majestic birds as I did. I want people to know the actual facts about vultures, which is why I am writing this. I want you to know more about their diets, habitats, and other facts that will leave you amazed at these vicious-looking birds.
Yes, vultures eat carcasses of dead animals, usually from another animal’s kill. But a vulture’s diet is so much more than that. I have discovered some amazing facts about their diets that will blow your mind as it has mine.
Why Are Vultures Bald?
There is a reason why vultures have no feathers in their heads and sometimes necks. And it has everything to do with their diets. Vultures eat decaying flesh. This diet consists of an overflow of germs, bacteria, and parasites that spread and cause diseases. You would think a diet like that would infect a vulture. But since their heads are bare, these bacteria and parasites can’t spread because there are no feathers to burrow into.
How Can Vultures Eat Rotting Flesh Without Getting Sick?
But what about when these bacterias and parasites enter the stomach? I can tell you that this can kill any other scavenger animal except vultures. The digestive juices of a vulture are so acidic, strong, and corrosive that it can digest anything. It can even dissolve lead. No kind of poisoning can affect a vulture.
Vultures also have a pouch in their gut that stores up at least 40% of toxic bacteria. It’s so amazing to think that these toxins stay there, not doing anything, not causing anything, not affecting anything. This would kill other animals for sure.
Why Don’t Vultures Eat Live Prey?
Vultures are not good hunters because of their chicken-like feet. If you have ever observed the talons of an eagle, you will see that it’s very sharp with a good grasp. Eagles use their strong grasp to hold down or carry the prey. Compare that with a chicken’s feet and you will see a huge difference. So you can see why there is no hunting for vultures.
They do have sharp beaks to tear through thick skin and even bones. But that won’t be any good if they can’t hold onto live prey with their feet. Vultures stick to what they are good at, hunting carcasses and tearing into its flesh and bones.
If you think that vultures are only found in lonely deserts with a few patches of grass, dead trees, and nothing but bones and carcass surrounding them, then you are wrong. Surprise, surprise! Vultures can be found almost anywhere in the world, in any environment except in Australia and Antarctica. Their bodies can adapt to any habitat, making them one of the few animals that can live anywhere.
To learn more about their habitats, know that there are New World Vultures and Old World Vultures. To make it easier to categorize, the New World Vultures locate in the Americas while the Old World Vultures locate in Africa, Asia, and Europe. Between the New World and Old World, there are about 30 sub-species that all live in different environments.
It is important to note that New World Vultures are not related to Old World Vultures. They fit in the “vultures” category because they have the same appearance and impact on the environment. But if you are considering DNA, then they are far from related.
Other Vulture Facts
I want to give you other random but important facts about vultures. These facts have made me appreciate vultures as they are and not the stereotypical birds that are blood-thirsty, ugly, and sinister.
How many people know that vultures are social birds? We usually think of them as very lonesome and only meeting other vultures when they find a carcass to feed on. We are so used to the notion that birds of prey live alone that it is hard to believe that vultures feed, fly, and roost in large flocks.
Of course, when it comes to flocks of animals, they are called by a group name. For vultures, it is a little more complicated than that. Vultures have different names with the activities they are doing. Let me explain…
When vultures are not doing anything, you can call their group a committee, a venue, or a volt. If they are flying together, then they are referred to as kettle. Still another name comes when they feed on carcasses together, and they are then called a wake. So you see all these different names for different activities.
Though vultures are birds of prey, they are still in danger of some predators. And I find their defense mechanism an unusual one. Vultures vomit to protect themselves from prey. This vomit is very foul-smelling that it will drive predators away. The vomit is also full of acids that could harm the predator enough to make it not want to pursue its chase. Finally, they vomit so that they become lighter and escape is easier.
There are a lot of chilling stories and myths about vultures. Yet, vultures are actually harmless. We do not need to be afraid of them. In fact, we should be thanking them for removing carcasses that could spread diseases in the air.
I hope you learned something new about vultures. I hope that you appreciate them even though they are not birds that sing beautifully with pretty colors.