Not Technically Buzzards
While vultures live all across the USA, I see way more of them in Texas than other states.
People here often call them buzzards, so I figured that was a southern term. Turns out that the word buzzard crossed the ocean with our British ancestors. It used to be a generic European term for hawks.
Vultures, however, are not hawks.
There are three kinds of vultures in the USA, two of which are found in Texas: California Condors (an endangered species not found in Texas), Turkey Vultures and Black Vultures.
Turkey Vultures Were Made to Fly
Turkey Vultures, with their six foot wing span, were made for gliding through the sky. They have wrinkly red skin on their heads instead of feathers and distinctive white markings beneath their wings. They prefer to dine on carrion.
Black Vultures Will Even Hunt Calves
Black Vultures have a five foot wing span, white tipped wings, and while they, too, have a featherless head, it is black instead of red.
In addition to carrion, Black Vultures will sometimes hunt reptiles, baby birds and even small mammals (like calves!)
Here are a few interesting facts about vultures:
- Vultures have a much better developed sense of smell than other birds.
- Male and female vultures have the exact same markings.
- Some vultures from Texas head all the way to Brazil for their winter migration.
- Vultures do not build nests. They lay their eggs in hollow trees, abandoned buildings and rocky ledges.
- Vultures are highly sociable, feeding together and roosting in large groups at night.
Vultures Make Creepy Sounds!
Rather than chirp or sing, vultures hiss and grunt. The sounds they make are really hard to describe, other than to say that they are downright creepy! To hear what I mean, check out the sound files on this Turkey Vulture information page.
Don’t they sound eerie? Just imagine how freaky it would be to hear those noises coming out of, say, your closet at night.
That said, I still think vultures are beautiful birds and I love watching them soar through the Texas skies. (And one of these days, I’ll get a good shot of them on a bright sunny day, when they are not back-lit!)
More A to Z blog posts
This was my post for the letter V of the A to Z blogging challenge. Tune in tomorrow to see what quirky Texan thing the letter W will bring!
In the meantime, click on this link to find out what all the other A to Z blogging challenge folks are posting. There are so many great blogs out there to read and enjoy!