7 September marks International Vulture Awareness Day, an internationally recognised event that focuses on the conservation and protection of vultures. With many vulture species in rapid decline and critically endangered, identifying the threats posed to these magnificent raptors and collectively responding with viable conservation solutions is of great importance.

Our relationship with vultures has often been skewed by their rather macabre public image—impending death or threat is often artistically conveyed by circling vultures. This relationship has been around for some time, as evidenced in Perry’s Arcana, published in 1810–11, where it is stated that, in relation to the Condor Vulture: “Some writers have confidently affirmed that it has been known to carry away Children."

Vulture Basics

In reality, vultures are the ‘caretakers’ of an ecosystem, with their scavenging playing an essential role in controlling the spread of disease. Vultures are found in every continent, with the exception of Antarctica and Oceania. They are split into old world and new world vulture species, with old world species found in Africa, Europe and Asia, belonging to the family Accipitridae. New world species are found in the Americas and belong to the family Carthartidae. Though they look outwardly similar to old world species, new world vultures are more closely related in morphology and behaviour to storks (many, but not all, new world vultures have a developed sense of smell, unlike old world vultures which have not). This is a perfect example of convergent evolution.

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   Turkey vultures average 2 1/2 feet with a 6 foot wingspan. In spite of their large size, they only weigh between 2-4 pounds!

Turkey vultures have been known to live up to 24 years.

Researchers have determined that turkey vultures can travel at up to 200 miles in a day.

Turkey vultures have an extraordinary sense of smell. They have been known to be able to smell carrion from over a mile away.

We love the Vultures. Never tire of watching them soar.

   Turkey vultures are the only scavenger birds that can't kill their prey.

Groups of vultures spiraling upward to gain altitude are called "kettles". As vultures catch thermal updrafts they take on the appearance of water boiling in a pot – hence the name kettle.

Turkey vultures have been reported by aircraft pilots to rise to as high as 20,000 feet and soar for hours without flapping their wings.

Groups of perched vultures are called a wake. I

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