A few days ago, a deer died just beyond the fence at the bottom of the garden. A dozen vultures came to the wake.

Turkey vulture and Black vultures in walnut branches

Turkey vultures arrive first, guided by their excellent sense of smell. Black vultures follow, guided by their excellent sense of entitlement. Black vultures travel in groups, watching for the turkey vultures, then flop down and drive away their keen-nosed cousins.

All vultures have powerfully acidic guts with potent digestive enzymes. In this way, they cleanse carrion of disease. Anthrax and other microbes are killed by passage through a vulture; not much else in nature will kill them. The scientific name of the turkey vulture is therefore apt: Cathartes aura, the purifier.

1 thought on “Catharsis

  1. Jamey Campbell

    I really like being friends with knowledgeable biologists! To the point (not my strong suit) but very interesting and informative.


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