Emma Willard Vultures

Despite the vultures being commonly spotted on top of the Sage building, many people have said they don't know why the birds stay there. Is it because Sage Tower is very high? Is it because the birds appreciate the architecture? Is it because of the view? Well, turns out, all of those answers are correct!

Vultures prefer very tall buildings since it gives them a good vantage point and allows them to keep an eye on their surroundings for miles. Since vultures are scavengers, having a good vantage point is vital, as it gives them a good view of the surrounding area and any possible meal options laying around. Vultures have also been known to roost in old or abandoned buildings since it is peaceful and quiet. Emma Willard has some of the oldest and tallest buildings in the surrounding area, which is most likely why the vultures selected our beautiful campus to stay at!

Vultures are relatively social birds, and prefer to spend the night as a group, which is called 'roosting.' As mentioned before, tall buildings or structures like cell towers, are perfect locations for large groups of vultures to stay the night. Since the Emma Willard buildings are large, their size was probably also a factor that interested the vultures. People in our community have said that they've seen groups of up to 50 vultures at one time, which is huge! With that many birds, a huge building like Sage, with a large roof, would have looked very inviting! So, putting all the pieces together: Emma is covered in beautiful vultures because our buildings are tall, old, and big! Our campus is very open and wide, and the Back Forty provides some nice wooded cover. Overall, Emma Willard is perfect for vultures in every single aspect!

The Vulture Species at Emma Willard

Black Vultures are large black birds with a leathery black head and a dark, hooked beak. They are very intelligent and social birds who enjoy gathering in large groups. They hunt for carrion and prey from high altitudes, and despite sharing many characteristics with the Turkey Vulture, they rely on vision rather than smell. A Black Vulture's feet are rather weak with blunt talons, but their sharp beak helps them tear flesh and even the toughest cow hide. Because of their intelligence, these birds are very difficult to scare away. Things like loud noises, flashing lights, and moving objects do not bother them, so the best way to avoid a violent encounter with them is to simply leave them alone and walk away. Similar to the Turkey Vulture, Black Vultures are helping the environment by eating the carrion and flesh of dead animals. Overall, these large birds are harmless, and have no incentive to hurt humans or animals unless they are attacked or harmed.

Image of black vulture

Juteau, M. (n.d.). Black Vulture [Photograph]. ebird. https://ebird.org/qc/ species/blkvul/CA-QC

Image of turkey vulture

Hurt, J. (n.d.). Turkey Vulture [Photograph]. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura. https://www.tn.gov/twra/wildlife/birds/grassland-and-shrub-birds/ turkey-vulture.html

Turkey Vultures are large, dark brown birds, with a featherless red head and a pale beak. Sometimes referred to as the Turkey Buzzard, these vultures are the most widespread of the New World vultures. Despite having a very threatening appearance, Turkey Vultures are the only scavenger birds that are unable to kill prey. Their feet are similar to a chicken's, instead of a hawk, eagle, or other birds of prey. In spite of this disadvantage, Turkey Vultures have the largest smelling system out of all birds, which allows them to locate carrion easily and efficiently. Despite many people thinking these birds are dirty and disgusting, Turkey Vultures are actually helping to clean the environment by eating dead animals. In addition, these vultures prefer fresh meat, and would not eat a severely rotted carcass. Despite the myths and stereotypes, these birds are friendly, affectionate, and are even able to facially recognize human caretakers when in captivity!