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Vulture - The misunderstood bird

Sep 15, 2011, 2:40 PM | Article By: Isatou Dumbuya

Vulture, one of the most sadly misunderstood creatures in the world is eater of the dead. They are part of the group known as birds of prey, have acute eyesight, muscular legs and sharp bills.

They are medium to large-sized birds that are adapted to a diet of dead animals. They have weak feet with blunt talons and bare heads to prevent the feathers from becoming dirty while feeding. Their long, broad wings are efficient for long distance soaring. Vulture regurgitate food from their crops for their young instead of carrying prey to the nest.  Do you know that vultures have incredible eyesight in order to spot their food?  A soaring vulture can spot a 3-foot animal carcass from up to four miles away.

While most birds of prey feed on live animals, the vulture specializes in eating the bodies of the dead. When a particularly good prize is discovered, it is not uncommon to find up to six different species of vulture taking part in the feeding frenzy.

It is time for lunch at the Senegambia beach Hotel. But this is special. Hooded vulture and cattle Igrets, big and small, old and young gather to have their fill. I jump out of their way fast before they jump on me as they land with amazing speed. I happen to witness them feeding by chance and I wonder why the hotel was going through all that trouble to feed one of the unlikable birds in the world. They remind me of the nightmares I used to have when I was a kid, and that has made me to develop a resentful behavior towards them.

With amazing speed, they fly around proudly, waiting for their meal as the tourists look on. Sliced raw beef and chicken dart about here and there as the guide threw them away with practiced hands. Something about him told me that he had been feeding them for years.

He even recognized some of them and just had to make a clucking sound with his tongue and they went flying around him. All I could do was look emotionless at the tourists as they took photographs of these birds and cheered on.

Downwards and upwards the vulture went. It was like a game as some tourists cheered on and others held their noses to ward off their bad odour. In a second they cleared everything and waited for more. More came their way and the smart quick ones took the best. Minutes later, they drank water to wash the food down and spread their larger-than-life wings to sunbathe.

Standing there, with all those greenery around us, it dawned on me that they are opportunists and that they know the right time to get what they want. Isn’t that how humans are at times? It is all about survival of the fittest, and in their world the fittest survives. I now understand their nature, but that has not succeeded in making me like them completely.