Neat Nature Nasties! The Vulture Never Leaves Home Without Sunscreen
And neither should you! But please, just use the stuff from the bottle, OK?
Up on a high branch, you become aware of a commotion below and turn your attention away from the feathers you’ve been grooming. Peering down, you see it’s your brother, signaling for you to come down for lunch.
Several family members have beat you to it, already digging in. Suddenly, you notice members not in your dining party standing a few feet away, watching the meal or trying to steal a bite for themselves. How rude! You promptly aim a spray of vomit in the looky-loos’ direction. Your brother notices and joins in, sending the regurgitated remains of what he ate moments ago flying with impressive aim, and the shocked onlooker scrambles to make a hasty retreat. A few family members vomit in solidarity, but most just continue to feast.
Lunch smells great but it’s quickly approaching mid-day, and the sun feels unforgiving on your exposed skin. No worries though, because you’ve got self-made sunscreen wherever you go — excrement that you dribble all over your legs. Satisfied, you finally turn towards the decaying flesh in front of you. It’s been rotting in the hot sun for a few hours now, and the overwhelming smell of decay is making you hungry.
If you’re a human and doing any or all of these things, let me speak for everyone around you and say you need to stop; you’re ruining family dinners. On the other wing, if you’re a vulture, this is exactly the kind of family meal you’d be into — sometimes quite literally, because vultures often climb right inside the carcass to get to all the gushy bits first.
Vultures aren’t aggressive creatures, so to avoid confrontation, any would-be predator (or smaller animal unlucky enough to make the mistake of annoying them) is met with the business end of nature’s gnarliest Super Soaker. Turns out, the ability to spray regurgitated, sun-rotted flesh as far as 10 feet away is a very good defense, and the vulture doesn’t have many predators.
Using your own waste for sunscreen is also widely looked down upon if you’re a human, and for good reason: it’s pretty gross, and it will not work. A vulture’s excrement acts as a cooling mechanism — similar to sweat for humans — and dries to a chalky white that when dribbled over the scaly parts of their legs, serves as a very effective sunscreen. This is called urohidrosis, and it’s common practice for longer-legged birds.
Vultures are super important to the ecosystem, because they clean up the bodies of animals that have died. They’re capable of eating meat that would make other species very sick, and that helps diseases from spreading.
Despite how gross they can be, vultures are also kinda cute! Celebrate this hardworking, underrated clean machine with an adorable and easy-to-make V for Vulture printable craft by Artsy Craftsy Mom.
Photo: Artsy Craftsy Mom