Vultures Circling

Discussion in 'Biology & Genetics' started by Orleander, Aug 1, 2011.

  1. Orleander OH JOY!!!! Valued Senior Member

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    My husband sees vultures circling as and says "uh-oh, something is dead or dying"

    why? Do vultures have that great of smell that they can smell a dead rabbit clear up in the air? And if it is dead? why are they circling it instead of eating it? And can vultures really tell when something is about to die?

    I say they are just surfing air currents.
     
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  3. origin Trump is the best argument against a democracy. Valued Senior Member

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    They are probably circling inside a thermal to attain altitude. If you watch them for a while you will notice they will gain altitude and then soar off somewhere else.
     
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  5. chimpkin C'mon, get happy! Registered Senior Member

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    They circle thermals...but vultures do have an unusually good sense of smell. Apparently unusual in birds.

    Around here we have both black vultures and turkey vultures...the black vultures are smaller, but more aggressive. I have seen the black vultures back a turkey vulture off a carcass on several occasions. The turkey vulture just stands there, managing to look somewhat embarrassed.
     
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  7. Walter L. Wagner Cosmic Truth Seeker Valued Senior Member

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    They will also circle if they spot something dying. They wait for it to die, then descend for the meal. No reason to go after something living that might attack them.
     
  8. leopold Valued Senior Member

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    me and a friend of mine went hiking one day.
    we hiked about 2 miles through the woods and entered a large ( about 4 acres ) clearing.
    after entering the clearing we decided to sit down and swig from our jugs of water.
    we sa there maybe 5 minutes when we noticed two vultures circling overhead.
    the birds disappeared once we started moving again.

    apparently the birds were watching us as we hiked through the woods.
    to my knowledge birds are not keen on smell but some birds, especially the hawk, have very keen eyesight.
    i have heard that a hawk can see a rabbit from a mile away.
     
  9. Me-Ki-Gal Banned Banned

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    Yes Walter . Eagles do the same thing , Osprey, magpies , and many other birds are scavengers . Eagles and Magpies eat at the same time . Crows too! I forgot the crows .

    They got the birds eye view . Smell of vultures is interesting . Didn't know that Chimpkin
     
  10. chimpkin C'mon, get happy! Registered Senior Member

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    True that...in American vultures...I think African vultures go after things that are still vaguely alive.
    But they are really sturdy birds compared to their American counterparts
    , and have more competition for dead and almost-dead stuff.

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    Kenyan Vulture

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    Turkey Vulture
     
  11. Cifo Day destroys the night, Registered Senior Member

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    Some of us were having a barbecue in a rural area, when several turkey vultures arrived and began "wheeling" overhead, and two landed and walked up pretty close to our party before we scared them off.
     
  12. leopold Valued Senior Member

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    There has been a long controversy over the degree to which vultures use odor to help them find food. Mostly the argument has been over whether sight or smell is more important, but it has also been suggested, by those with a flair for the absurd, that vultures listen for the noise of the chewing of carrion-feeding rodents or insects or even use an as yet undiscovered sense. Nonetheless, the sight-odor argument remains unsettled. While Turkey Vultures, for example, seem to have a good sense of smell, quite likely it is not good enough to detect the stench of decomposing food from their foraging altitudes. Experiments have shown that their threshold for detecting the odors of at least three different products of decay is too high to permit sniff location from high altitude. Whether or not the birds are more sensitive to the smells of other components of decomposition remains to be determined. More work will need to be done before we know whether vultures use sight or smell or both to locate the dead animals they feed on
    http://www.stanford.edu/group/stanfordbirds/text/essays/Avian_Sense.html
     
  13. Me-Ki-Gal Banned Banned

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    I liked that article . Yeah very good
     
  14. Mr MacGillivray Banned Banned

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    there is a vulture species that does use smell for the location of food, since their habitat is the rainforest and sight is useless.

    Can't remember the species name. It was in one of those BBC series.
     
  15. milkweed Valued Senior Member

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    We have turkey vultures where I live, which are scavengers. The Black vulture is known to kill live animals and is thought to be a sight, rather than smell forager:

    Info near bottom of page:
    http://www.raptorcenter.org/black-vulture.asp
     
  16. cosmictraveler Be kind to yourself always. Valued Senior Member

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    We have them here as well except we call them parking enforcement officers!

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    They hover around cars that have almost expired parking meters and pounce on them as soon as the meter expires.

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  17. scheherazade Northern Horse Whisperer Valued Senior Member

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    Somewhat off topic, but too true, lol....

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    Some interesting facts regarding vultures being posted here. We don't have any vultures in the Yukon, though we have Bald-Headed Eagles and tourists come from considerable distance for the viewing opportunities. There has been a viewing camera set up on one local nest and it has yielded some excellent photography.

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  18. chimpkin C'mon, get happy! Registered Senior Member

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    Lately I have spotted an eagle around here sporadically, though not this year.
    There's a nesting pair up the road, fortunately they nested on an island, otherwise they'd probably have to set up an electric fence to keep out the picture takers.
    Also a pair of these:

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    This is a swallow-tailed kite-it's a little smaller than a red-tailed hawk, very pretty.

    I've been spotting at least one pair here every summer...my bird book says they are only to be expected around the Rio Grande.

    Which means they may be expanding range. Very cool.
     
  19. Read-Only Valued Senior Member

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    Some very interesting info in this thread - thanks folks!!

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    Let me add just a bit of trivia: What is the one dead animal that a vulture won't eat?

    Answer: Another vulture.

    I've never seen any published reason for that but strongly suspect that it's a self-preservation thing. As in whatever caused the first one to die might be a contagious disease or deadly poison.
     
  20. hardalee Registered Senior Member

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    Vultures like other birds of prey, have extreemly keen eyesight.

    This, in IMHO, and based on my hunting experience, where the come in on animals that have recently died, or not yee dead, is the main factor.
     
  21. Orleander OH JOY!!!! Valued Senior Member

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    how do they know its dying?
     
  22. chimpkin C'mon, get happy! Registered Senior Member

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    Lying down out in the open is my guess...
     
  23. cosmictraveler Be kind to yourself always. Valued Senior Member

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    When an animal dies it gives off a "death call" which is unheard by humans but other animals can distinguish it from other sounds. When the vultures hear that sound they descend for then they know it has passed.
     

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