June 7, 2017

Vulture Variations

 Costa Rica has vultures the way cities have pigeons: they are practically everywhere you go. Unlike pigeons, which we typically lump all together as "winged rats," there are 3 distinct vulture species in Costa Rica and we were lucky enough to see them all. Turkey vultures are the same species we have here in Canada. They hang in the air with a distinctive "V" shape to their bodies and search for their food by smell and sight.
 In contrast, black vultures (which we do not get in Canada, but which are also found in the southern USA) hunt entirely by sight. To help them spot prey, they fly higher than turkey vultures, and will often rely on their motions, or those of predators, to help them locate a meal.
 King vultures are the largest of all (except for condors) and fly the highest. We saw them twice and Kathryn was very good at spotting their distinctive white fronts (compared to the turkey vulture, they have the inverse colour pattern). They typically fly highest of all the vultures and often rely on both other species to locate kills. Despite their enormous beaks, they rely on other birds to open up a carcass and then use their larger size to drive the others away.

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