Why I Love Vultures

One of her favorite birds, Dr. Caitlin Kight talks about the vultures; how they are not understood very well by a lot of people, and that they actually serve a wonderful purpose in the ecosystem.

Nick: One of your favorite birds is the vulture, which you mentioned on a radio show. So would you like to explain why you have this love for vultures where most people probably wouldn't?

Caitlin: Yeah, definitely vultures have not always been my favorite group of birds, and I have had different favorites over the years. An early favorite was the blue j because when I was out, banding birds: so we capture birds in these nets and put bands on them so we can track where they go and what they were doing, and I caught a blue J. And it just watched me the whole time. Like, I've got my eyes on you. I know what you're doing. You're not outsmarting me, and I just loved its attitude. 

But vultures, actually one of the real reasons that I like them, you've just mentioned is that a lot of people don't, and I think that they really get a bad rap. They're not understood very well by a lot of people. You know, in my part of the world, they're called buzzards. So I live in the UK and in the UK, a buzzard is a hawk, a bird, it's a predatory bird that will target things and kill them. And in the US, what we call buzzards is a vulture. 

Vultures do not typically, for the most part, they don't go hunting for things -- they just eat, carry, and that's leftover. So this is a real misunderstanding where people malign them because they think all they're going to do is kill my pet rabbit, or my chickens or my lambs or whatever. And that's not true.

Actually, what they're doing is serving this wonderful purpose in the ecosystem where they're taking things that no longer otherwise have a purpose, and they're breaking them down and returning the little bits of them into the environment. So they can come back as plants, funky animals, whatever. 

I think that's amazing, like what better role than to be the link between something dying and something being reborn, you know, not to get overly floral about it. But for me, that's such an important part in the ecosystem. I think it's such a shame that people don't understand how they do that.

In fact, in places like Africa and India, they're severely threatened, because it's been misunderstood for so long, and there have been poisoning events that have killed them off. So those functions are no longer being fulfilled, and I find that really tragic because it's this lovely part of the cycle of life.