The Strange Tale of Iowa’s ‘Vomiting Vulture’
There are 23 species of vultures throughout the world but only ONE can be found in the Hawkeye State -- the scary-looking, dead-eating, Turkey Vulture.
Much like the American robin or the red-winged blackbird, the Turkey Vulture also signifies the coming of spring, according to the Iowa DNR. The arrival of Turkey Vultures also means that ‘nature’s cleanup crew’ is back in business – as they prefer to eat roadkill or other recently deceased critters. Cars just might be the Turkey Vulture's best friend.
They’re quite easy to spot, especially from a distance as they circle around in groups, high above with their excellent eyesight. Or you may see them roosting in large groups on dead, leafless trees.
They’re Big, but not Heavy
They have a length of 2.5 feet and a 6-foot wingspan, but they only weigh 2-4 pounds. They also do not screech or squawk. They are only able to grunt or make hisses. They can smell a carcass from more than a mile away that has been dead for less than a day.
Kettles and Wakes
A group of Turkey Vultures swarming in circles high above are known as ‘Kettles.’ While a group of roosting vultures is called a ‘Wake.’
How Do they Stay Cool While Eating on the Hot Pavement?
They urinate on their legs. Yep. Despite that, they are considered to be a ‘clean bird’ spending numerous hours bathing and cleaning themselves.
Strange Defense Mechanisms
They have strong beaks, but their feet are rather weak for grabbing prey. But if an uninvited guest shows up, to defend themselves, they may pretend to be dead. But, if they are protecting their nest, the vultures will regurgitate food at the transgressor, with precise targeting up to fix feet! Just the smell of their vomit is so bad that this defensive move almost always works.
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