It’s almost Valentine’s Day and time to celebrate love in its many manifestations. While the first animal to come to mind may be a cute and chirpy lovebird, most people do not know about another type of lovestruck bird: the Turkey Vulture.
Why, you might ask, is the turkey vulture considered one of nature’s prime examples of a bird whose life involves love and dedication to its partner? It’s because the turkey vulture is one of the few known species to be monogamous, having just one mate for life. Some other species that are faithful to only one honey pie are beavers, gibbons, and bald eagles.
Turkey vultures are known by many as a funny looking bird species as they have small bald reddish heads, brownish bodies, and many wrinkles and warts. They also have blackish feathers on their bodies and wings. Speaking of wings, their wing span can be five to six feet across! With wings like those, they are able to glide through the air with ease.
Dedicated to one mate for life, turkey vultures are excellent as a pair and work equally to provide nourishment and care for their eggs and young. The incubation period lasts anywhere from 38 to 41 days. Wouldn’t you be tired if you had to sit on an egg for all that time?! You would probably be one unhappy vulture. Luckily, the turkey vultures share egg sitting duties.
When the eggs hatch, turkey vultures continue their joint responsibility of care as they warm and guard the new hatchlings whose appearance differs from their parents in that they have black coloring on their faces, brown or whitish coloring on their bodies, and soft grayish/white feathers. Those young hatchlings sure are lucky that they get so much care and attention from both parents! Turkey vultures also believe in sharing the responsibilities and care for their young when it comes to feeding. Both mom and dad vulture leave the nest to hunt for food and also jointly participate in feeding the young. Turkey vultures indulge mainly in carcasses of small, dead animals like mice and amphibians, but are also known to dine on carcasses of a larger size, such as deer, cows, and horses. Look, here’s mom and dad with something dead for dinner!
While out hunting, turkey vultures are finicky when it comes to how they carry their prey back to their young. Unlike other large birds, turkey vultures are not able to carry prey with their feet and do not like carrying it in their beaks. Therefore dinner time for the young ones is an interesting process, as they eat food by putting their beaks into mom and dad’s mouth, and eating what they have regurgitated from the earlier hunt.
According to the Turkey Vulture Society, vultures can be seen as beneficial to nature for a number of reasons. One main reason is that they aid in preventing bacteria and diseases from spreading that come from dead animal carcasses. Since they contain strong acids within their stomachs, by consuming dead animals, turkey vultures kill bacteria and diseases before they are able to spread. Thanks, turkey vultures, for your incredibly strong stomachs and acids!
While turkey vultures are usually known for their inclination to feast on the dead and their awkward appearance, they should also be considered as a bird species that values dedication, commitment to one mate, and equal partnership. For that, all of you romantics out there can value this bird as a prime example of a true love.