Author: Douglas “Birdman” Gray

People tend to be marveled by birds on varied levels!  It’s easy to find poems penned about birds, songs sung regarding birds, paintings drawn of birds, and photographs taken of birds; as we try to capture their essence and wonder.  These avian creatures have the ability to inspire the human mind on many levels.  Beauty is one of the things that inspire us about birds.

Let me rephrase!  “MOST” birds inspire due to their beauty.  This month’s featured bird?  “It ain’t one of ‘em!!!”

This month’s featured bird is the Turkey Vulture.

I’ve heard it said that, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”.  If any of you can behold this month’s bird and see “beauty”…please let me know, because this bird has to rank near the top of most folk’s “Ugliest Bird List”.

Turkey Vultures are normally seen from some distance, as they soar on thermals of air and in flight they appear quite marvelous (so this isn’t all bad news).  They fly so effortlessly and gracefully that it is indeed remarkable.  On more than a few occasions you’re likely to see these huge birds soar majestically from horizon to horizon and never flap a wing.

But to see a Turkey Vulture up close and personal?  Well…to see one up close and personal will cause you to pinch yourself to make sure you’re not having a nightmare, or cast in some horror film.

I vividly remember my very first close-up view of a Turkey Vulture.  I was a young boy growing up on my grandfather’s farm, and a cow had died.  My grandfather was able to get the cow’s carcass away from the stable area and toward the back of the property so as to prevent the family from having to endure the cow’s impending stench.  Soon after, a large number of vultures circled over the field and they appeared to descend upon the dead cow. (I couldn’t be sure that they were there for the cow, because the crest of a hill, and trees, prevented me from actually seeing the carcass.)  Being your typical, curious farm kid, I had to see, so off I went to investigate.  I slyly made my way to the crest of that hill and when I was finally able to peek over the hillcrest, and through the trees… I saw…“Them”.  Birds that were so heinous and repulsive they actually frightened me.  (It’s a wonder I would even become a birdwatcher after that experience.)

But like I said, this isn’t all bad news, because, in spite of their heinous appearance, we can all marvel at the Turkey Vulture.  With their majestic flying…their sharp eyesight…their keen sense of smell…and actually their great function of feeding on dead stuff…we can indeed marvel this bird.  However, I’ll continue to do my marveling of the Turkey Vulture…from some distance!!!


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