Beauty Is in the Eye

The Turkey Vulture isn’t everyone’s idea of a beautiful bird. The plumage is OK; it can even be radiant if the sun hits it at just the right angle to bring out its prismatic overtones. But that head! Bare, wrinkled red skin, like a bald old drunk. A face stretched without a sense of proportion. Nostrils that you can see through from left to right. A beak like a pair of sheet metal pliers. The unapologetic triumph of function over form. Yet in the park this morning, two of them kept company as intimately as any couple of friends or lovers. Clearly they found each other attractive. “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”

Well, lovely or not, they’re among the most useful creatures of the feather. Without their cleanup work, all the winds off the ocean wouldn’t be enough to quench the stench of all that dies. They’re also wonderfully skilled fliers; if a prize were given for the most mileage with the least wing beats, they’d win it talons down.

I’ve seen one of their kind in the park several times in the past. Today was the first time I’ve seen a pair, together.

The Crows seemed to have some issue with them, and kept flying at them, although not with the maximum spite of which they’re capable. Crows aren’t very good at disposing of carrion; their beaks are too feeble to even break the skin of a small mammal recently departed. They should welcome the vultures. No pelt is too tough for them to cut open. Once that’s done, the Crows can profit by hanging around and waiting for the big bird to share. After a while, that logic seemed to sink in on the Crows, and they scaled down their protest to vocalization.

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One thought on “Beauty Is in the Eye

  • I love this website and I love your description of the Turkey Vultures! Thank you for sharing your pictures, videos and commentary! We have a jewel at the Berkeley Marina!

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