Saturday, September 4, 2010

International Vulture Awareness Day

So this ol' planet has completed another circuit around the sun, and it's time to think about a group that helps prevent smelly dead things from accumulating: vultures. From the official website,
Vultures are an ecologically vital group of birds that face a range of threats in many areas that they occur. Populations of many species are under pressure and some species are facing extinction.

The International Vulture Awareness Day has grown from Vulture Awareness Days run by the Birds of Prey Working Group in South Africa and the Hawk Conservancy Trust in England, who decided to work together and expand the initiative into an international event.

It is now recognised that a co—ordinated international day will publicise the conservation of vultures to a wider audience and highlight the important work being carried out by the world’s vulture conservationists. On September 4th 2010, the aim is for each participating organisation to carry out their own activities that highlight vulture conservation and awareness. This website, established in July 2009, provides a central place for all participants to outline these activities and see the extent of vulture conservation across the world.
Last year, I expressed appreciation for the turkey vulture, a creature I grew up seeing on a nearly daily basis. This year, I'm going to go for exotic and showy: the king vulture, Sarcoramphus papa. The king vulture
is a large bird found in Central and South America. It is a member of the New World vulture family Cathartidae. This vulture lives predominantly in tropical lowland forests stretching from southern Mexico to northern Argentina, though some believe that William Bartram's Painted Vulture of Florida may be of this species. It is the only surviving member of the genus Sarcoramphus, though fossil members are known.

It is large and predominantly white, with gray to black ruff, flight, and tail feathers. Its head and neck are bald, with the skin color varying, including yellow, orange, blue, purple, and red. The King Vulture has a very noticeable yellow fleshy caruncle on its beak. This vulture is a scavenger and it often makes the initial cut into a fresh carcass. It also displaces smaller New World vulture species from a carcass. King Vultures have been known to live for up to 30 years in captivity.
From the wikipedia page quoted and linked above, here's a close-up of the handsome fellow:In flight:
MySpace Layouts
King Vulture Image & King Vulture Pictures. Pretty bird!
(from the Tree of Life Project) Polly want a... um... pumpkin?(Nat. Geo.) Bottom line: due to their dietary habits, and physical adaptations to fit their niche, vultures can look pretty horrid by our standards, but they serve a critical role in maintaining the circle of life. However, "can look horrid" does not mean "looks horrid." Many of them are quite beautiful, and from a distance, in my experience, watching them soar is rarely less than inspiring and wonderful.

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