Walking with Vultures

very good vulture

When I was teaching, I would often ask students to classify nouns, adjectives and verbs. Thumbs up for a word that had a positive feel, thumbs down for the negative. Infrequently, there might pop up a word that was neutral, but – think about it – many words we use have a good/bad reputation. Vulture? Definitely negative.

But I keep encountering them in nature. They glide by me, sometimes far up in the sky, sometimes quite close, and I have decided that I can form my own opinion on their character. To me, they seem totally thumbs-up.

I look forward to walks with my vulture friends. Perhaps because I live where many creatures live (and die,) vultures capture my attention each day. They have become my most reliable walking companions. I love to see the long spread of their wings as they hover over the sage. I had never known the effortless grace of their flight before my walks on the beach. They make me take notice with a persistent presence and a command of the salt-sprayed fog.

img_4968As I walk, they seem to play in the sky and frolic on the land. Maybe they don’t see things that way, but as I have come to know these friends with feathers, I see their antics. Dipping and swaying with air currents I will never explore, they share with me their freedom. One came so close, I heard the push of a wing as the vulture coasted inches over a dune, just one more trick to make me wish I could be as playful in the air.

Beach weather can change fast, and even when the winds come up and blow the sand, I walk and the vultures glide. The spraying sand doesn’t seem to change their daily romp along the coastline. Nor mine.

They scavenge, but so do I. Maybe they pursue habits that many think of as grizzly, but can’t we just as easily thank them for keeping our trails and walkways clean? There’s a good side to picking at the bones of life, a sort of nature’s way to keep house.

Walking with nature can be surprising, but my walks with vultures have taught me lessons about what we must see and accept. I am grateful for their company, even when vultures are doing what comes naturally. My beachside walks have treated me with a new respect for the word Vulture. Thumbs all the way up.


28 Replies to “Walking with Vultures”

  1. I remember the big effort to reintroduce the California Condor to the wild several years ago, even using mom-shaped hand puppets to feed the chicks. They seemed like incredibly ugly birds close-up, but so magnificent in the air. Fortunately, we don’t choose which wildlife is worthy for protection based on the way they look to us. Lovely pictures!

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  2. True true, vultures are an essential part of the whole nature cycle… but I can never forgive them for trying to eat Simba in the Lion King šŸ™‚

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      1. I was wondering that too, but maybe the other raptors take care of that? We only see these big fellows from about early December and until March every year.

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  3. We saw many vultures when we lived on Padre Island, circling above the dunes and we happened upon large groups of them several times along the coasts in Central America. You’re right about how graceful they appear in the air, gliding and catching the wind. With their red, leathery masks they’re less than beautiful up close but the service that they perform in nature definitely deserves some appreciation! Anita

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  4. Hmmmm, I do not associate vultures with the beach. We have them around our mountains and valleys regularly. Yesterday, while riding home (I was the passenger), I spotted a dark wing span gliding across a field. Then I noticed the white tail and head of the bald eagle. I watched it cross the field, then follow along the trees that line the river. It barely seemed to flap it’s wings for flight. Though we usually have a thumbs-up response to eagles, they will eat carrion just as readily as will a vulture. Why hunt stuff you have to chase when something is lying about for the taking without effort? Keep those beach pathways clean.

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    1. Marvelous – the sighting of a bald eagle in nature is such an iconic thing. We certainly do give them more respect than the vulture. They may be prettier, but what does that really give you?
      Lots of rain here. Are you getting that big-time storm?

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      1. All creatures are wonderful in the web of life. We just need to be mindful of where we humans fit into the process.

        No big-time storms here, but lots of erratic temperatures (5F Monday 65F Thursday), and gentle rains (1/2 inch at a time, which soaks in nicely).

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  5. I love Vultures having flown a few in recent years. Once you get to know them and see them close up they are wonderful birds and have so much character. I flew them at a Birds of Prey centre near where I live in England. Such fun.

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