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5 Disgusting Habits of America’s Fascinating Vultures

Introduction to Vultures

When we think of birds that are synonymous with cleanliness, vultures hardly come to mind. Often portrayed as grim, foreboding creatures that prey on carrion, these feathered scavengers play a vital role in maintaining ecological balance.

They have endured for millennia, adapting to life amidst the most unsanitary of conditions. In this article, we explore the disgusting habits of vultures that make them both fascinating and repulsive.

From urinating on themselves to vomiting to escape predators, this article delves into the lifestyles of these enigmatic creatures and the reasons behind their behavior.

Disgusting Habits of Vultures

Urinating on themselves

We sometimes associate cool, odious animals with filth. In the case of vultures, this is not far from the truth.

These birds have one particularly disgusting habit – they urinate on themselves. The purpose of this cold and dirty practice is both counterintuitive and counteractive.

Firstly, vultures urinate on themselves as a way of lowering their body temperature. When the ambient temperatures exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit, the birds defecate and then excrete onto their legs, drenching themselves with urine.

As the moisture evaporates, their body temperature cools, providing much-needed relief in arid and hostile environments. Secondly, vulture urine on their legs also serves as a bacterial deterrent.

As they feed on decaying flesh, bacterial infestations become a problem. By coating their legs in urine, vultures create a hostile environment for bacteria, which cannot thrive in acid.

Thus, urinating on themselves helps to maintain their hygiene.

Eating bacteria-laden dead animals

Vultures have adapted to have strong stomach acid and are notorious for ripping into the carcasses of dead animals. This habit is not only gross but also a necessity dictated by their scavenging lifestyle.

However, since vultures feed on carrion, they are exposed to bacterial infections that would potentially harm other living creatures. To combat the spread of such infections, vultures have evolved with robust digestive systems.

This means that their stomach acid is stronger than that of most animals, making it easier for them to break down the bacteria that would harm other creatures.

Bald head

Interestingly, vultures have no feathers on their head and necks. The prevalence of feathers on animals is typically utilized to regulate body temperature and create aerodynamic stability when in flight.

However, for vultures, this adaptation keeps them clean. When feeding on a carcass, vultures are not only exposed to bacteria, but the flesh also sticks to their feathers, creating an additional burden during take-off.

Hence, their bald heads have become an adaptive advantage to keep them clean, especially when feeding on carrion.

Vomiting to escape predators

The serious business of feeding on Carrion often attracts predators searching for an easy meal. Roadrunners, foxes, and other mid-sized predators threaten vultures while they are feeding on a carcass.

To evade these predators, vultures have developed an ingeniously disgusting response- vomiting on their predators. When threatened, vultures vomit their stomach contents, discharging the unpleasant smell of regurgitated meat.

This distracts the predator with the odor, creating ample time for them to take-off. Lightening the load helps vultures take-off faster, throwing themselves in the air to maintain altitude and evade threats.


Vultures occupy an essential ecological space in many parts of the world, cleaning up after death and maintaining ecological balance. Their reputation as dirty and unhygienic birds can often overshadow their unique lifestyle adaptation.

However, despite their disgusting habits, vultures pose no harm to humans, and in essence, they are fascinating creatures that are integral to the larger scheme of things in the natural world.

3) Vultures in North America

Vultures are a common sight in North America, with 23 distinct species inhabiting the continent. Of these 23 species, the Black Vulture and Turkey Vulture are the most prevalent in the United States, and they are regular visitors to New Jersey.

Understanding the behavior, appearance, and habits of these majestic creatures can help us coexist with them peacefully and maintain biodiversity.

Black and Turkey Vultures in New Jersey

In North America, two distinct species of vultures dominate – the Black Vulture and the Turkey Vulture. Both species can be found in New Jersey, where they tend to roost in large groups and can be casually observed along highways or perching atop tall trees in open fields.

While the Black Vulture often associates with the Turkey Vulture, they are easily distinguished from one another. The black vulture is shorter in wingspan and has a bald black head, contrasting the red heads of the turkey vulture.

The color of the wings and their pattern are also different, with black vultures having two-toned under-wings of white and gray coloration, as opposed to the turkey vulture’s uniform, lighter underbelly, and dark wingtips.

Identifying Vultures in New Jersey

Although vultures may appear similar to other birds of prey, such as an eagle or hawk, they have distinct features that make them easily identifiable. For instance, the turkey vulture often flies low with its wings in a slight “V” shape, which is different from the larger hawks and eagles soaring in a straight line.

Therefore, if you spot a bird on a tree or soaring overhead and see a bald or red head, or a two-toned pattern on its wings, then it is likely a vulture.

4) Turkey Vultures

Turkey vultures are distinctive scavengers that play a crucial role in maintaining a clean environment and ecological balance. Their unique adaptation to carrion consumption, parental behaviors, and habitat preferences make them remarkable creatures to study.

Appearance and Features

The turkey vulture has a bald, deeply wrinkled red head. They are large brown birds with a wing-span of approximately 6 feet, and their overall appearance is somewhat similar to that of a turkey, giving them their name.

They have two-tone wings with dark feathers on the upper wing and lighter feather tones underneath. They also have a hooked bill, which is essential for tearing meat from carcasses.

Habitat Preferences

Turkey vultures prefer to live in open habitats such as farmland, forests, deserts, or grasslands, and they usually perch on high trees or other elevated locations to scan the ground for food. They are also often seen gliding low over open fields or roads, primarily in the morning when thermals are strongest.

Diet and Feeding Habits

As scavengers, turkey vultures have adapted to feed on carrion, making them indispensable to our ecosystem. They feed on the carrion of small and weak animals, including livestock, rodents, reptiles, and other birds, and will also eat dead plants and fruits.

They serve as environmental sanitary workers, disposing of dead animal corpses, and minimizing the propagation of disease by consuming it.

Nesting Habits and Parenting

Turkey vultures are monogamous birds, meaning they mate exclusively with one partner for the duration of their lives. During breeding season, a breeding pair will choose a secluded area to build their nest.

They often select shallow, sheltered areas such as caves, crevices, or dense bushes, or ground nests, usually made up of foliage and sticks, and build them high up to protect them from natural predators. Once the female turkey vulture lays one or two eggs, both the male and female partners work together to incubate the eggs, which hatch in about a month.

Baby vultures will be fed through regurgitation by both parents. Young turkey vultures can start flying independently in just two months, but they will stick with the parents for another few months for protection and teaching.


The turkey vulture is an important scavenger bird that can sometimes get a bad rap due to its feeding habits. However, when you understand the critical role they play in the environment, their value to the ecosystem becomes clear.

As we learn to coexist with turkey vultures, it’s essential to work towards preserving their natural habitats, so their remarkable behavior and other unique traits can continue for years to come.

5) Black Vultures

Black vultures are highly distinctive birds of prey that are known for their featherless heads and necks. They are native to the Americas and can be found in many parts of the United States.

In this article, we explore the unique characteristics of black vultures, including their appearance, habitat preferences, diet, feeding habits, and nesting habits.

Appearance and Features

Black vultures have a few unique features that distinguish them from other species of vultures. They have a black, featherless head, and neck, which are put to good use during feeding.

This special adaptation allows them to avoid getting messy while scavenging for food. They are also the blackest of vultures with a wingspan of about 4-5 feet long and weight of 3-5 pounds.

Habitat Preferences

Black vultures are found in areas where they can find plenty of food and cover. For instance, they prefer living in lowland and middle elevations, populated areas such as agricultural fields, cliffs, wooded areas, or scrubby hillsides.

They are social birds frequently seen in communal roosts, and may, therefore, build their nests close to other birds’ nests.

Diet and Feeding Habits

Black vultures feed on a wide range of carrion, including small to large-sized animals such as mammals, reptiles, and birds. They are fond of dumpsters and landfills, where they can easily find an abundance of food.

They may also feed on agricultural animals such as poultry and cattle if they happen to be dying or deceased. Black vultures have strong bills that are essential for tearing the flesh of their prey.

Nesting Habits and Parenting

Black vultures typically nest on the ground, often in caves, crevices, cliffs, or under logs, where they are sheltered by the environment. Unlike the turkey vultures, black vultures may build their nests in close proximity to other nests, indicating that communal living habits in communal roosts also extend to nesting.

Once the female vulture lays one to three eggs, both parents participate in incubation duties. The baby vultures feed on regurgitated food provided by their parents, and the nestlings may stay with and learn from their parents for as long as a year.

Social Bonds

Black vultures are social birds that form strong bonds with their families and communal roosts. They are known to exhibit social behavior such as cooperative feeding, whereby they eat together in groups.

They also play together, displaying playful behavior around nesting sites. These social interactions help to strengthen their social bonds and create an environment where it’s easier to locate food and raise young.


Black vultures play an essential role in the ecosystem, aiding in the disposal of carrion and garbage that would otherwise promote the spread of disease and pollution. Their distinctive appearance, which includes a black, featherless head and neck, sets them apart from other species of vultures.

They prefer living in lowland and middle elevations with nearby food sources and shelter, such as wooded areas. They are social birds, relying on communal roosts to locate food and raise their young, and forming strong bonds amongst their families.

Black vultures’ contributions to the environment make them remarkable birds worth observing for their unique adaptations and social lifestyle. In conclusion, vultures are fascinating creatures that play a crucial role in maintaining ecological balance and cleaning up the environment.

Their unique adaptations, behaviors, and habits make them intriguing subjects to study, and understanding them can help us coexist peacefully with these scavengers. Whether it’s the black vultures with their featherless heads or the turkey vultures with their two-tone wings, each species of vulture has remarkable traits worth learning about.

Here are a few common questions and answers about the essential facts about this unusual bird. FAQs:


What do vultures eat? Vultures feed primarily on carrion such as dead animals, lizard, snakes, or birds that they find, making them crucial components in the ecosystem.

2. Where do vultures live, and how are they identified?

Vultures live globally, but in North America, you can identify them by their bald-red/black head, two-toned wings, and tendency to perch atop elevated places such as trees, rocks, or cliffs to scan for food. 3.

Do vultures pose any harm to humans? Vultures do not harm humans as they seldom pursue live prey, but they uphold biological balance and removing dead animal remains thus, preventing disease transmission or pollution.

4. What adaptations do vultures possess that aid in their survival?

Vultures have unique adaptations such as a robust digestive system, strong stomach acid, and two-tone feathers to cope with the scavenging lifestyle, defend against predators, and thermo-regulation. 5.

Are vultures social animals that bond with one another? Yes, vultures form social bonds, build communal nests, play together, and feed cooperatively, making them fascinating birds to observe.

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