One of the first large birds I think every wildlife photographer photographs, is the vulture. They’re pretty much everywhere and an easy subject in which to practice. I still photograph them from time to time, be it to check settings or when one of these beasts begs me to take their picture.
After a while, they get boring and we ignore them. We want images of the real wildlife, the kind we see in magazines or on other websites. When in the field when I see a large bird in the distance, I’ll check it out in my viewfinder. Once I see it’s a vulture, I ignore it and it’s soon forgotten.
This article isn’t going to be about how we should take more pictures of vultures, but rather the role vultures play in our wildlife photography. We may not think about it much, if at all, but If not for these vultures, there’s a good chance that we wouldn’t have much wildlife to shoot.
Vultures look fierce, almost as if they would be the kings and queens of the feathered kingdom. But have you ever noticed that you never see pictures of vultures swooping down and grabbing their next meal with their talons? I’ll save you some thinking time, you haven’t.
The reason you have never seen a vulture picking up a rat, mouse, or plucking a fish out of the water is because they can’t. Their talons are made for walking and holding their meal in place, while they eat. Their beak is for shredding.
Since they’re not hunters, they feed on the dead and rotting. This is where the vultures actually help us have more wildlife to photograph. Vultures have a digestive system that allows them to eat diseased carcasses, with no ill effect. There system cleans, stores, and discards the diseased food consumed.
If not for vultures’, other animals could eat the diseased dead and rotting, which could and probably would become their demise. One such disease that comes to mind is rabies. There’s no telling how many other animals that would become infected by the one that had the misfortune to find a tainted meal.
Now you may be thinking that this is all well and good, but if the vulture is using its talons to hold their diseased meal, they could still spread the disease. Ahh, good point. Although not the face of one you’d want to bring home to mom, nor the table manners and diet, they do have their own personal form of good hygiene. When holding their meal, they will excrete waist onto their legs. Their waste kills off any bacteria and toxins. This is also why their legs are white.
As a side note, vultures can live to be 25 years old and will often stay together in family groups.
2-Day Private Wildlife Photography Workshops
You can attend my 2-Day Private Wildlife Photography Workshop in Fort Smith. These workshops are ideal for the beginner to advanced wildlife photographer. It’s a mix of classroom and field work culminating with editing images using Lightroom and Photoshop. This is one-on-one instruction which is not rushed. You may also bring a friend and split the cost. Registration is $295, add $150 if you will bring a friend. You’ll learn my camera modes, settings, fundamentals, techniques and more during the two days. We have a lot of fun and you’ll leave able to capture better wildlife images. For more information, touch the Learn More button below.Learn More