why do birds circle around dead animals

Large flocks of vultures, referred to as “venues,” are frequently observed roosting on the exposed branches of dead trees. Here, they either absorb heat to bake off the bacteria they have collected from spending days with their heads in and their bodies moving around, like carcasses, or they spread their wings to dry them after rain. Alternatively, they could be observed flying at great altitudes over an area where the gases released by decomposing carcasses, particularly ethyl mercaptan, which is used to give potentially hazardous gases like propane an odor, indicate the presence of food.

Steve and Wendy Hall run the Adirondack Wildlife Refuge and Rehab Center in Wilmington. Theyve been rehabbing and releasing wild animals for over 45 years, specialize in predators, keep wolves as the cornerstone of their educational program, and have lived in the Adirondacks for the past 20 years. The Adirondack Wildlife Refuge became a non-profit about 10 years ago.Visit www.AdirondackWildlife.org to learn more.

This is an example of convergent evolution, wherein two creatures who are unrelated, but evolve in environments which are distant, but share similar opportunities, i.e., large dead animals, end up filling essentially the same role, and develop similar attributes which make them come to resemble one another. The African vulture lives in an open area where it is easy to spot carrion from the air, while the turkey vulture lives in areas which include dense canopy, so smell becomes a key advantage. Since a vulture spends so much of its life with its head inside the carcass of an animal, natural selection has gradually removed the feathers from the head, as feathers would accumulate bacteria and bits of putrefying flesh. The merely aesthetic tradeoff is the vulture’s ghoulish appearance.

Because vultures lack the syrinx, which is a bird’s vocal organ, they can only make hisses and grunts. Additionally, turkey vultures differ from raptors in that they can stand on carrion with their weak, nearly flat feet to prevent it from shifting while they pick and tear at it with their short, ivory-colored beaks. Even though they have such grace when gliding or circling, turkey vultures are clumsy and difficult to take off from the ground. They alternate between walking and hopping. When a startled vulture defends itself, it often empties its crop and makes it lighter so it can take off by vomiting up a foul stew of undigested material, distracting its pursuer with the promise of a free meal.

Also contrary to popular belief, vultures are extremely shy and wary of people, don’t follow dying animals, and will occasionally eat shoreline insects and vegetation. I’ve seen one of our turkey vultures, Ike, eat pumpkin and squash placed in the enclosure he shared with Lenoire, the Raven.

It just seems like a waste of energy to me. Archived post. New comments cannot be posted and votes cannot be cast.


Why do birds circle around their prey?

Unlike us, their eyes are on the sides of their heads. So, they have to approach a food item from a circle to really see it. Plus, circling helps them scan for predators or other dangers nearby.

Why do vultures circle around dead animals?

In this manner, turkey vultures can fly without much flapping of the wings for up to six hours. A group of circling vultures, called a “kettle” (bubbles rising in boiling water?), is as often an indication as to where rising warm thermals are located, as to where an animal’s carcass lies.

Why do birds circle an area?

Why do birds fly in circles in groups? They are circling on updrafts – naturally occurring areas of hot air raising. It takes lots of energy for large birds to flap their wings so they search out and find an updraft that will take them very high.

Do crows circle dead animals?

Many view the appearance of crows as an omen of death because ravens and crows are scavengers and are generally associated with dead bodies, battlefields, and cemeteries, and they’re thought to circle in large numbers above sites where animals or people are expected to soon die.