More Than Just A Pretty Face
By Melissa King
The Buffalo Zoo is home to a breeding pair of cinereous (or Eurasian black) vultures. The male is named Vladimir and the female Czari. They are both twenty-eight years old and have been at the zoo since the early 90’s. The home range for this species of vulture is throughout Europe and Asia. They are adapted to higher altitudes and colder climates which makes Buffalo an ideal home.
When people think of vultures, they usually think of them as being scary or not very attractive. Their heads are generally bald with little to no feathers, and they are often associated with death. Their diet consists of carrion which is the remains of other deceased animals. While this may not sound very appetizing to you and me, it serves an essential purpose in our everyday ecosystems. Vultures are Mother Nature’s clean-up crew! In the wild cinereous vultures spend their days perched atop mountains and trees or soaring on air currents looking for their next meal. Here at the zoo, they are fed a variety of large rodents, beef rib bones, and meat made especially for birds of prey. In the wild, their meal may be the remains of larger animals such as yaks and sheep or smaller animals such as fox and chickens. They are well equipped for all of these items with large hooked beaks and strong talons capable of tearing open thick skins and ribs. By consuming the remains of other animals, they help to prevent the spread of diseases such as botulism and cholera. Bacteria doesn’t bother them as it would us because they have very corrosive stomach acid which aids in digestion.
So the next time you see a vulture don’t think “ew an ugly vulture,” be sure to say thank you to the cleanup crew!