Excerpts from Jim Conrad's
Naturalist Newsletter

from the August 28, 2005 Newsletter issued from the Sierra Nevada foothills somewhat east of Placerville, California, USA

Most any moment of most any day I can look out over the canyon next to the house and see one or more Turkey Vultures circling about. Consequently at least once a day this question crosses my mind: How on Earth can there be enough carrion out there to keep so many vultures alive?

On my hikes I seldom encounter dead animals, and most of the ones I do find lie along roads. Often when I pass down those roads a day or two later the roadkill is still there, so the mystery only increases.

This week my curiosity finally reached the Googling stage, and I think I may have part of the answer.

For one thing, vultures eat a lot of small dead animals you'd not expect them to find many of -- shrews, voles and moles, for instance. Then they also eat insects and other invertebrates, and not necessarily just dead ones. In fact, vultures have been seen eating living specimens of everything from newly born pigs to baby herons and ibises. Finally, vultures do eat a fair amount of plant material. There's at least one report of 62 vultures attacking some frost-softened pumpkins.

While looking for the above information I ran into some other interesting facts about vultures. For example:

The "Turkey Vulture Society," dedicated strictly to Turkey Vultures, produces a fine website with pages dealing with such topics as how to "adopt" a vulture, and what to do if you find an injured one. You can visit it at http://vulturesociety.homestead.com.