Stinky… but important!

Turkey vultures are stinky birds. Not only do they eat old, rotting carcasses (by choice!), they throw up as a defense mechanism. And if you’ve never smelled turkey vulture vomit, let me tell you it will curl your hair and send you running for the hills. They even defecate on their own legs to keep cool: imagine that!

But no matter how foul these large, soaring birds can get, they are important to our world. Turkey vultures are considered nature’s garbage disposals… dutifully eating up dead animals we’d rather not have to deal with ourselves. In doing so, they keep our landscapes clean and potentially reduce the spread of disease.

Appearance-wise, some say vultures have a face only a mother could love. This is so not true. Their bald heads — believed to be quite handsome by some — allow them to really get into a piece of carrion with minimal cleanup. And just like the stereotype of their auburn-haired human counterparts, these red-headed beauties have the fiery attitude to match. Turkey vultures are known for their sass and will hiss at you all day long, if they please.

On April 9, the VINS Wildlife Services department received a turkey vulture suffering from a broken wing tip and small wound. We believe a car probably clipped the wing of the bird. On a bird, a broken wing tip can be a challenge to heal, so we will have to wait and see if the fracture site heals. The wound was cleaned upon the bird’s arrival, and at last check was healing nicely. The vulture is eating his meals voraciously and successfully stinking up the entire Wildlife Services department. But we don’t mind! We just hope we can see this special bird return to the wild.


  1. Anonymous on April 16, 2010 at 6:37 pm

    "We just hope we can see this special bird return to the wild." … sooner rather than later … right? Oh yes, quite handsome … not!

  2. Anonymous on April 16, 2010 at 6:51 pm

    Hey Meghan,
    I just posted my comment almost an hour earlier than you posted the article. But since that would be impossible, and we're in the same time zone, I think your computer is set to GMT -04:00 as opposed to GMT -05:00 as it should be, which your time stamp seems to confirm.

  3. Meghan on April 17, 2010 at 7:54 pm

    Thanks for letting me know about the time stamp — I think I have sorted it out now.

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