Vultures. Black vultures, to be precise. The largest and most common American vulture. And there were three in the backyard today!
We see them all the time, circling in the near to far distance. After all, this is the Blue Ridge Mountains, and they live here. Sometimes there are as many as 10-15 sitting in the highest branches of the trees behind us. But we’ve never seen them in the backyard.
In this time of fear, it’s hard to not laugh when vultures show up in your backyard. Seriously? Vultures?? But if you’re a bird lover (which anyone who’s ever spoken to me for more than 5 minutes knows I am!), after the laughter comes awe.
They’re incredibly big, first of all. A wingspan of 5’. And when they walk on the ground, they’re really kind of adorable: bobbing up & down, they almost skip. They’re also very family-oriented, mating for years, if not life, and caring for their chicks. Plus, black vultures maintain almost life-long extended family ties. Which is how they build up large flocks. Noiseless big flocks, for the most part, as they have no voice boxes.
And their group naming is fascinating:
A group of vultures is called a committee, venue or volt (a volt? Where the heck did THAT come from?) When they’re flying (or circling our house), they’re called a kettle (another total non sequitur for me), and when they settle on a carcass to feed, they become a wake.
Who makes up these names??? So, a wake I can see – but…a kettle?? A volt?? Still, they make a great distraction from all the news. Even if they are (for many folks) bad omens. I prefer to think of them as great family birds, good parents & partners. Which is something I’m trying to be especially mindful of these days. I’ll make of my portents what I please, thank you!