Vulture – fashionable and practical

vulture_webTurkey Vultures remind me of 16th century European royalty (you know those “ruffs” they wore around their necks?). That regal appearance results from a bald head, which keeps the birds a little cleaner as they dig around in decomposing roadkill.

Evolving with bacteria goes beyond losing some feathers though. After all, if you ate rotten meat, you’d get sick. Vultures have extremely acidic digestive tracks and beneficial relationships with bacterial species that are dangerous to the rest of us.

Oh, and don’t bother Vultures while they’re feeding. They’re known to vomit as a defense mechanism.

p.s. Robert Krulwich of NPR wrote a super-amazing post about Vultures and their sense of smell (keep reading for the part on the oil pipelines – awesome!). As a painter, some of the early experiments sound like great fun!!!

Snoods, Caruncles, Wattles and Spurs

turkeyThe male wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) weighs in as one of the largest birds in North America at around 20 lbs (by comparison, many domestic turkeys weigh twice as much). Females are roughly half the size of the male.

The heads of male wild turkeys are featherless and colorful, with odd sounding structures such as the snood, caruncles, and wattle. Their head can even change color depending on their mood (blue means “Hey, good lookin’!”; red means “I’m ticked off!). The “beard” of the wild turkey grows from the chest and is comprised of filamentous feathers. Males also grow spike-like spurs on their legs, used for fighting.