Jul 23 2010
I was going to talk about head feathers today but some of them are named for the body part they cover. What are those feathers covering? I asked two vultures to help me out.
Vultures don’t have head feathers because of their lifestyle: they eat carrion and stick their heads into rotting carcasses. Head feathers would get very dirty and are hard to clean so vultures just don’t have them.
Pictured here are a turkey vulture at left and a black vulture on the right. Notice that you can see their ears! (red arrows) Birds’ ears are below their eyes on the edge of their cheeks. On the turkey vulture you can see that the end of his smile comes pretty close to his ear.
These birds also give us a good view of their nares (yellow arrows) whose size is quite different between the two species. Turkey vultures have a keen sense of smell, black vultures don’t. The bird that relies on its sense of smell has large nares.
And finally, who can avoid noticing those wrinkles? I’m glad most birds cover them.
(photos by Chuck Tague)