Sunday, June 21, 2009

Puke Breath

"Let me warn you about Vultures" the woman on the phone at the animal rehab center said. "It's ok - I know where you're going with this. They're pukers."

While on tour on Friday we spotted a juvenile vulture sitting on the ground under a palm tree. Unusual. It hopped about and clearly could not fly. So after a quick call to C.R.O.W (Center for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife) out on Sanibel I confirmed that the Vulture had most likely fallen from the nest and was in need of rescue.

Vultures eat carrion. Dead stuff. On occasion the Black Vulture will help a sick or injured animal into the next world but fresh road kill is always the chef's choice for our roadside clean up crew.

Vultures don't seem to have much in the way of a defense system considering their weak talons but it might be a toss up if I had to rescue an injured owl vs a vulture. Vultures puke. They vomit when stressed. They barf if you get too close. So the idea of rescuing an injured vulture requires considering this consequence.

I prepped myself by climbing into a stinky dumpster to get a cardboard box big enough to transport the bird to CROW, grabbed a towel from the Lake Trafford Marina and headed down the road to wrangle the bird.

I know it's a juvenile because it still has feathers on the head. Adults go bald which is a great benefit when you spend your days with it stuck in a dead animal carcass.

Upon approaching the bird - it hopped about and tried to get lift off. I followed it around the Marina sign. I followed it around a Sabal Palm. There was no way I was going to catch this bird. It was healthy. It just had no idea it could fly. So I made one mad dash towards the potential puker and it leaped skyward, landing 6 feet up on a chain link fence. I approached again and the bird hopped down and headed towards the canal - I followed and when the bird ran out of space and was cornered by me, my box and my barf-shield, it leaped again, soaring a few feet down into the canal. Just before splashing into the gator-filled water, it flapped with several heavy wing beats, soared skyward and landed on a branch where it looked back at me as if to say "I had no idea I could do that". The vulture could finally fly. Good luck my new vulture friend and may the cars and roads bring you good fortune.


  1. I had the plesure of watching a young Mockingbird leave the nest for the first time.

    He or she managed to lift off only a few inches at first, bouncing off a bush or two, before one last call by Mama. Then, magically, that little mockingbird got it all together and flew onto my neighbors roof.

    I could have sworn he or she was smiling.

  2. nice pictures!It's always best to scare the barf out of something or someone to get them to do what they never thought they could!

  3. Can you explain to me why you can teach a vulture chick to fly but you need a GPS to help make a baby????

    Watch video...