Seeing the good in a vulture
Regarding the Jan. 16 Metro article “Birds of a feather, disgusting together: Vultures are wintering locally”:
Just how “disgusting” are vultures? I’d advise a fresh look at a bird with a stinky reputation. Their role as nature’s janitors is vital. They have the best sense of smell of all birds — so keen that engineers use circling vultures to pinpoint leaks in natural gas pipelines. (The birds are attracted to the rotten-meat smell of mercaptan, a substance added to odorless gas for safety.) Turkey vultures own another record — for slowest wing beat. Their long list of attributes continues, from the antibacterial urine that cleans their legs to the defense of vomiting food on an attacker. Disgusting or ingenious?
It’s dismaying to see the response to vultures roosting in winter in Staunton. The USDA’s strategy of killing two dozen at a time is not working. Why not provide the birds an alternative roost — knowing the kind of surface that attracts them? It’s about time we learned to live with our native wildlife, starting with wintering vultures in Virginia.
Deborah Richie Oberbillig, Takoma Park
| January 17, 2011; 7:04 PM ET
Categories: Virginia, wildlife
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