Becker Animal Hospital | A vortex of vultures with mighty power of smell
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A vortex of vultures with mighty power of smell

A vortex of vultures with mighty power of smell

A turkey buzzard fluffs his feathers to cool and dry himself along side a rural San Antonio-area farm road. (Photo by Jon Donley)

While the turkey buzzard – or more properly turkey vulture –  can be seen across the country, especially during the summer, this large scavenger makes its home in Texas year-round.  Together with its sidekick, the black vulture, these birds can be spotted circling high up looking for food almost any time.   

The turkey buzzard is known for its extremely keen sense of smell, which can detect faint odors of decaying flesh from high in the sky.  It makes a good partner for the black vulture, which possesses extremely good eyesight.

The turkey buzzard’s sense of smell is so acute that gas line repair crews searching for leaks can inject a faint scent of decay, and then wait for the vultures to begin circling overhead at the leak location.  

Like many animals, these vultures have a number of special names for groups, other than the generic “flock.”  Perhaps most descriptive is the term “vortex of vultures,” which evokes the image of the swirling cluster of birds whirling high over a potential corpse.  Another is “wake of vultures,” so named because of the funeral aspects of their hunt.



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