I am fascinated by vultures. Don’t ask me why.  To a lot of people they are gross and a reason to think bad things are going to happen when they are around. But in fact, they are the garbagemen of the bird world. Without them, we would have some pretty stinky dead things hanging around.

Case in point, the dead groundhog that they found on our property. Fortunately, it was outside the dog fence, otherwise this would be a totally different story. As it is, the story started a couple of days ago when I thought there might be something weird going on on the opposite hill. Sure enough, today the black vultures came en masse.


At one point there were at least 12 or so on the ground with another 10 circling in the air. This was obviously not a big enough corpse to warrant 20+ vultures, so it wasn’t long before the ones in the air went away looking for a better lunch. But the ones on the ground were obviously used to figuring out which was the “top” bird. Challenges were tentative, but caused the feaster great angst.

top bird
top bird
"Get away!"
“Get away!”

Of course, if a challenge was made and accepted, that left the food open for someone else to get.  Birds are weird.

All of these vultures happen to be black vultures. I don’t know where I heard this but black vultures can’t smell, thus they have to rely on turkey vultures to smell the food and show them where it is. Our vet’s office assistant told me that when the field behind her house is threshed, the black vultures hang out on the farmhouse opposite, because they know that there will be dead critters to feast upon, and they don’t have to rely on a turkey vulture to point the way to the cafeteria. Black vultures aren’t quite as interesting to look at as turkey vultures though, the turkeys are just plain UGLY.

Needless to say, when they were all done, I did go look at the remains, just to see what it was. Yes it was a groundhog, yes I took a picture of it, yes it’s gross and no I’m not going to show it to you. I was, however, quite impressed with the teeth on it, they are long and curved on the bottom and short and curved on the top (seems backwards).

I am not sad that this animal is now deceased and has fed some birds. I don’t like ground hogs much. I used to like all animals. In fact, there is a story of me as a little girl. One day I saw a fox  in the back yard and started running toward it screaming “Doggie!”. Now, as an adult, I have a more balanced view of the natural world. Everything has pros and cons, the cons of groundhogs are the damage they can do to the foundation of houses and barns if they burrow under them. We have already removed one family from under our barn. Since I am not much of a gun enthusiast, I have to resort to relocating them. Of course if someone were to come in and offer to keep the population down to a dull roar, I would not argue. Call me heartless but there it is.

Isn’t life in the country fun and full of stories???

4 thoughts on “garbagemen

  1. They serve a valuable part of the ecosystem,not much different to wedge tailed eagles who mainly eat roadkill along the highways here..without these birds the risk of disease would be higher,i don’t know much about groundhogs but I feel the same about rabbits,yes they are cute and I could never kill one but boy they mess up the land and underpin trees and leave huge burrow holes for stock to come to grief in..yes indeed the joys of being a country girl 🙂 Hugs Fozziemum xx

  2. Your wedge tailed eagles are a far sight more beautiful than vultures are. And I love how they have feathers on their legs, looks like they are wearing sweat pants or frilly pajama bottoms! I know you have a rabbit population that is destructive, but it sounds like the virus is working to diminish the population. It’s hard to find the right balance between nature and civilization isn’t it?

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