One of the great pleasures of driving around the American south-west is the variety of raptors birds of prey that present themselves as you cruise the big-sky country. Perched on trees and power-poles, soaring high on thermals or just hanging around looking for the dead or dying. They are out there, you've just got to use that inquisitive and following eye to find them.
I had a look at one of the most common American raptors, the Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura), back in 2009 here. This week's bird is the Turkey Vulture's less common cousin, the Black Vulture (Coragyps atratus) and I caught up with this 40 year-old bird and his 30 year-old female companion in the back-yard aviary of my friend and respected ethnoornithologist Amadeo Rea from the University of San Diego at his house there a few weeks ago.
You can learn more about Amadeo's magisterial ethnobiological work with the Piman peoples at the University of Arizona Press page here.
Amadeo has looked after these birds since they were fledglings as part of his long-term research into the relationships between human and birds in the American south and south-west.
Black Vultures rely on sight than smell when searching for food and will often follow a Turkey Vulture towards carrion, where they can gather in large flocks often of several hundred birds around a carcass. Black Vultures have stronger beaks than their cousins and can tear up carcasses more easily and will take a wider variety of food, including vegetable and fruits like over-ripe coconuts, pumpkins and oil-palm nuts.
I'd love to hear your thoughts or your own experiences with Vultures - of any species ...