Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Gruesome Vultures?

From a continuing series at Slate.com on “revolting creatures” comes this article on vultures. Thus, vultures join ticks and jellyfishes among the yucky creatures featured in the series to date. Considering the important ecological role that vultures play as scavengers, I fear that this article does a great disservice to these birds.

Caption: Turkey Vulture chick. This photo by whiteoakart is used here courtesy of a Creative Commons license.
The article makes reference to the Turkey Vulture Society. It also inadvertently confuses the relationship between New World vultures and Old World vultures. Although they play similar ecological roles, they are not at all closely related. New World vultures (family Cathartidae) are evolutionarily most similar to storks and herons in the order Ciconiiformes, while Old World vultures (family Accipitridae) are closely aligned with hawks and eagles in the order Falconiformes.

As ungainly in appearance and disgusting in their dining habits as vultures may be, I fail to see how anyone could look dispassionately upon these birds as gruesome or revolting, or without great appreciation of the critically important role they play as nature's recyclers.

Caption: Turkey Vulture adult. This photo by hjelle is used here courtesy of a Creative Commons license.



Blogger Patrick B. said...

You said it right John. Vultures rule.

February 03, 2009 11:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

They must be the ugliest bird I have ever seen.

February 04, 2009 6:59 AM  

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