Vulture Facebook

Human faces turn red with anger or embarassment and pale with fear.  Do other animals do that?

Well, yes.  Some vultures can rapidly change the skin color of their bare faces and throats in response to peers and rivals.  Scientists in Namibia observed interactions among lappet-faced vultures at feeding sites and found that these birds have their own "vulture facebook" signals.

The scientists learned that lappet-faced vultures with pale skin are at the bottom of the pecking order, even lower than juveniles.  Those with bright red skin, as seen on the throat of the vulture pictured here, are dominant over pale-skinned and juvenile birds and vultures with blue throats were dominant over all.

This knowledge adds a whole new dimension to vulture watching.

Do our turkey vultures do this?

I don't know.  Maybe they don't use (vulture) Facebook.

(photo linked from Science Daily, credit: iStockphoto/Johan Swanepoel. Click on the photo to read the Science Daily article.)

5 thoughts on “Vulture Facebook

  1. How more like birds they look when they are flying. Yesterday (10/24) watched the “Murder of Crows” on PBS. How wonderfully interesting. They are still a pesty noisy bird but they sure are smart & devoted mates.

  2. This is unrelated,
    but my neighbor spotted a dead red fox near the Pgh Zoo hill this weekend. We were so, so sad, that it was apparently hit by a vehicle.

  3. The crows are back. Thursday, about 6:30pm, I saw the sky full of crows over by Giant Eagle – Market District near Center Avenue.

  4. On Friday, I spotted several vultures feeding on a deer carcass on the McKeesport side of the McKeesport-Duquesne bridge. I have been seeing them in the skies, but never that close before. I guess they are getting used to the urban environment too. Friday seemed to be a day for deer. There was a 5 point buck casually strolling at the corner of Woodstock and S. Braddock. T’is the rut season. Hope he found some doe 🙂

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