Turkey vultures not regular guests at MARS

These vultures are a common sight in the early summer skies as they soar on the air currents, keeping a nose out for their dinner.

TWO TURKEY VULTURES returned recently to MARS after they were sent to another wildlife centre for rehabilitation.

TWO TURKEY VULTURES returned recently to MARS after they were sent to another wildlife centre for rehabilitation.

It is always rewarding when we can successfully rehabilitate wildlife patients, as many of the cases admitted to the MARS wildlife centre are beyond help by the time they arrive.

Last week saw the return of two patients that were rescued and have spent almost a year in captivity. Initially both birds were treated for their injuries and then sent to OWL, another wildlife centre in Ladner, where they spent several months rebuilding their strength and flight muscles in large flight pens.

Turkey vultures are not regular guests at MARS, which is fortunate as some of their eating habits are quite gross to watch! These vultures are a common sight in the early summer skies as they soar on the air currents, keeping a nose out for their dinner.

Often mistaken for bald eagles, vultures are actually members of the stork family. They were known to the Cherokee First Nations as “peace eagles,” a reflection of their non-aggressive nature.

They have neither talons nor a hooked beak capable of killing or tearing apart prey; in fact they do not kill their prey at all. Turkey vultures have many unique characteristics some of which are quite repulsive but at the same time serve a useful purpose.

Vultures do not rely on their eyesight like raptors to locate their food; they are scavengers by nature and eat rotting carrion or vegetation. To detect their food they rely on an enhanced sense of smell and can locate the rotting food by detecting gasses released by the decaying meat.

A featherless head is thought to have evolved to prevent feather rot a condition that occurs when feathers collect food particles and cannot be preened clean; vultures feed by putting their heads inside the carcass which would definitely result in feather rot!

When seen in flight it is difficult to determine the eagle from the vulture, an easy way to tell is by the way they hold their wings when soaring on the air currents. A vulture holds its wings in a V formation with the leading flight feathers held apart; eagles hold their wings straight out.

The turkey vulture’s main diet consists of meat from mammals or fish and they do also eat vegetation. These birds have an extremely efficient digestive system, which protects them from catching any disease the rotting food may carry. Once the food is digested, their waste material is sterilized and free from diseases.

Nothing is wasted by these birds, which are sometimes known as “sanitizers of the desert.” They find unique ways to regulate their body temperature making sure no one intrudes on their meal.

Like the stork family, vultures will use their waste materials to cool them off in hot weather; they urinate or defecate on their legs which cools them by evaporation. Meals are protected by the bird vomiting on the food making it very unappetizing for an unwanted dinner guest.

The two turkey vultures rescued last August were returned to MARS after extensive flight training, one had been hit by a garbage truck and managed to flip into the newly emptied truck. Unfortunately, many of our patients are victims of impacts with vehicles and often sustain life-ending injuries; this vulture had a badly broken wing but was fortunate to recover.

The second vulture was a target of an errant shot from a pellet gun. Please be extra cautious on the roads right now.

Many young wildlife species are learning their road smart skills. Be especially aware of ducklings and fawns that lack any road sense and will run into the road.

A thank you to the Grade 2/3 class from Quadra Island who joined me on a bird watching field trip it was great to see such an enthusiastic group who learnt how neat bird watching can be.

Check www.wingtips.org for coming events, to report injured or orphaned wildlife please call 1-800-304-9968. For all other calls, 250-337-2021.

Sandy Fairfield is the educational co-ordinator for the Mountainaire Avian Rescue Society (MARS). The MARS column appears every second Thursday.

Just Posted

NIC’s new president Lisa Domae assumed the role of president on April 12. Domae has worked at NIC since 2000, most recently as the executive vice president, academic and chief operating officer. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)
New North Island College president launches draft strategic plan

Lisa Domae assumed the role of president on April 12, 2021

Capt. Jenn Casey died in a crash just outside of Kamloops, B.C., on May 17, 2020. (CF Snowbirds)
Snowbirds to honour Capt. Casey, who died in B.C. crash, in 2021 tour

Tour will kick off in Ontario in June before heading west

Artist's drawing of the proposed 52-unit affordable seniors housing project in Comox. File photo
Comox Valley Affordable Housing Society receives federal grant money

The Comox Valley Affordable Housing Society (CVAHS) has received $25,000 in grant… Continue reading

Mark Henderson’s exhibit, “Bikes and Barbies,” is now showing at Artful : The Gallery on Cumberland Road in Courtenay. Photo supplied.
New exhibit at Courtenay art gallery

Artful : The Gallery is showing art by Mark Henderson until Saturday,… Continue reading

Charles Hawkswell, Commander, of the Cape Lazo Power and Sail Squadron, presents a $1,000 cheque to the Comox Valley Marine Rescue Society. File photo
Comox removing moorage fees, hydro for Comox Valley Marine Rescue Society

Last year, the unit and society responded to more than 50 rescue missions in the past year

An avalanche near Highway 1 in Glacier National Park. Avalanche Canada will benefit from a $10 million grant from the B.C. government. (Photo by Parks Canada)
Avalanche Canada receives $10-million grant from B.C. government

Long sought-after funds to bolster organization’s important work

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

The following is a list of restaurants offering take-out and patio dining. ADOBE STOCK IMAGE
List of Comox Valley restaurants offering take-out, patio dining options

Restaurants in the Comox Valley continue to adapt to government-imposed restrictions in… Continue reading

The only access to 5th Street bridge heading east (toward Lewis Park) is via Anderton Avenue. Photo by Terry Farrell.
Single lane alternating traffic controls on Courtenay bridge now in effect

Single lane alternating traffic on the 5th Street Bridge is now in… Continue reading

More “strings of lights” were seen on May 15, 2021, in night sky over Vancouver Island. (File photo)
Sicamous RCMP Sgt. Murray McNeil and Cpl. Wade Fisher present seven-year-old Cody Krabbendam of Ranchero with an award for bravery on July 22, 2020. (Contributed)
7-year old Shuswap boy receives medal of bravery for rescuing child at beach

Last summer Cody Krabbendam jumped into the lake to save another boy from drowning

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry update the province’s COVID-19 vaccine program, May 10, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate stays below 500 a day over weekend

14 more deaths, down to 350 in hospital as of Monday

Royal Bay Secondary School’s rainbow crosswalk was vandalized shortly after being painted but by Monday, coincidentally the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, the crosswalk had been cleaned up and students had surrounded it with chalk messages of support and celebration. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)
B.C. high’s school’s pride crosswalk restored following ‘hateful’ graffiti attack

Hate terms, racial slur, phallic images spray-painted at Greater Victoria high school

Terrance Mack would have celebrated his 34th birthday on May 13, 2021. Mack’s family has identified him as the victim of a homicide in an apartment on Third Avenue in Port Alberni sometime in April. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)
Family identifies Ucluelet man as victim of Vancouver Island homicide

Terrance Mack being remembered as ‘kind, gentle’ man

Most Read