Here in the small town I live in, we have a fair number of vultures swinging around overhead. Part of the reason must be available food, rodents and such. I understand these birds are not predators, but rather scavenge from carcasses they spy from above. Our local menu may not be all roadkill, for the landscape is fairly rural outside the town limits and there are no doubt plenty of animals to keep an eye on and varied opportunities to swoop in for a snack or meal.
Another reason we are a popular spot, I think, is our local air currents. We’re in a gorge here, along the river and part of the present-day Erie Canal. In the mornings and the evenings, I often see several or more of these big birds soaring, gliding, and taking great wheeling turns on the thermals and updrafts. It looks fun, appealing—it makes me wish I could fly!
At any rate, this has been a wet summer and this week (post-Hurricane-Irene, mind) more torrential rains fell. During a break in the downpours, I took the dog for a walk in the park. And there I saw a strange sight: vultures, perched in the tall trees, wings spread out. Wings spread out to dry, I am guessing. They hung out there in that posture for a good 20 to 30 minutes.
I have never seen this behavior in vultures. In cormorants, yes. Cormorants evidently lack some natural oils that would shed water and, out on the coast, you often see them perched on rocks or dock pilings, in a posture like this, airing out their wet wings, waiting to dry off a bit. I was not aware that vultures did this, too. Somehow I always thought of vultures as burly, indomitable creatures, never resting, never slowed down or fazed by anything.