2018-05-02 / Front Page

Vultures in the DePauw Nature Park


Henry the Superdog enjoys seeing the vultures in the park. We call the vultures “buzz” (short for “buzzard”) when we see them Henry the Superdog enjoys seeing the vultures in the park. We call the vultures “buzz” (short for “buzzard”) when we see them We are occasionally asked by visitors in the DePauw Nature Park, “What are those big birds that hang out on the Rim Trail? They look scary!”

The big birds are Turkey Vultures and Black Vultures. On a sunny day in the Nature Park, you may see up to 100 vultures soaring over the abandoned quarry or perched on the quarry rim.

Vultures are scavengers. They feed on dead animals and are also known as “nature’s janitors.” They play an important role in the ecosystem by disposing of dead animal carcasses.

Why are there so many vultures in the Nature Park? Is it because there are a lot of dead animals in the park? No. Most of the food for vultures is found on roads and highways, having been killed by vehicles.

Vultures spend time in the Nature Park because of the ideal flying conditions. The sun heats up the bottom of the abandoned quarry. The hot air rises and creates thermals, or columns of rising air. The vultures take advantage of the thermals to soar effortlessly over the park.

Vultures also may be nesting in the Nature Park. A female vulture lays her eggs in a cave or rock crevice, such as in the walls of the abandoned quarry. The parents are very secretive around the nest and may abandon it if you disturb it.

How do you tell the difference between a Turkey Vulture and a Black Vulture? The Turkey Vulture has a longer tail, longer wings, and a reddish head. The Black Vulture is smaller with a shorter tail and shorter wings, flaps its wings more frequently during flight, and has a gray head.

Be wary of making the vultures feel threatened. Their only means of self-defense is to project vomit at their predators, up to 10 feet away!

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