payday loans

The pulchritude of vulturitude, or…

…things are more colorful in the tropics.

Let’s unofficially extend International Vulture Awareness “Day” to “Weekend”, just so we can examine the glorious elegance that is the facial skin of the Lesser Yellow-Headed Vulture, a cousin of the widely distributed Turkey vulture that most of us Norte Americaños are familiar with.

You could argue that the King Vulture, also a New World vulture, is even more colorful, especially taking into account its snowy white-and-black plumage, but among the “Cathartes” vultures, the Lesser Yellow-headed takes the prize for chroma.  This colorfulness is limited to its face — in other ways, its plumage is so similar to its “cousin” the Turkey vulture that in flight, at a distance, the two are possible to confuse.

I’ve seen Lesser Yellow-headeds in Belize and Veracruz, and it’s always a thrill to feel that small jolt when you realize the bird gliding above the pasture that you were about to pass over as yet another Turkey vulture has that little extra something… the sun-colored facial skin gleaming in the tropical daylight.

(Photo by A.J. Haverkamp, from Wikimedia Commons: Especially, note the Pervious Nostril in this shot!)

Lesser yellow-headed vultures (Cathartes burrovianus) live in Central to South America, and are birds of tropical lowlands, seasonal wetlands and agricultural areas.  Like the majority of vultures around the world, they are carrion feeders. It’s widely reported that they have a mutually beneficial relationship with King Vultures: King Vultures, which lack the keen putrescine and cadaverene-sensing olfactory prowess of the Cathartes vultures, follow Yellow-headed vultures to locate fresh carcasses.  But the Yellow-headeds lack the mighty hide-ripping bill of the King.  So they wait at a carcass for the King vulture to show up, to “start” the meal.

(Photo: coastal agricultural wetlands of Veracruz, typical Yellow-headed vulture habitat.  A.Shock)

Posted by Allison on Sep 7th 2009 09:25 am | One Comment
| View birds,close in,field trips,natural history category

One Response to “The pulchritude of vulturitude, or…”

  1. Yum! Yum! « Kate McKinnonon 07 Sep 2009 at 10:52 am link comment

    […] 7, 2009 at 11:51 am (Uncategorized) Stop fighting it and go celebrate International Vulture Awareness Weekend with Allison Shock. First of all, you can’t go wrong with a vulture. They are badass, and, like Sky Goats, will […]

Leave a Reply