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Vultures get their day

Posted by: Susan Burchardt, Zookeeper

Turkey vulture Modoc at Woodland Park Zoo. Photo by Dennis Dow/WPZ.

Vultures are common—found all over the world except Antarctica and Australia—and yet are frequently overlooked or misunderstood.

Here in the United States we are lucky to have three species of these beautiful scavengers: the black vulture, the turkey vulture and the critically endangered California condor. Condor numbers are slowly creeping back up. Once down to 22 individuals there are now about 430 condors.

The picture is a little darker in other parts of the world. Asian vulture populations are beginning to stabilize after dramatic losses in the late 1990s and early 2000s. In Africa, carcasses are being poisoned to prevent soaring vultures from alerting rangers to the presence of poachers. This with other issues has caused several species to drop to near critically endangered levels.

Vultures are nature’s recyclers. Modoc takes that job quite seriously. Photo: Dennis Dow/WPZ.

A few years ago, educators got together and started celebrating International Vulture Awareness Day. Worldwide, it’s become a tradition on the first Saturday of September. We here at Woodland Park Zoo celebrate at the Raptor Center with our 30-year-old turkey vulture, Modoc.

There will be crafts and games and lots to learn about vultures from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. on Saturday, September 3. Come join us in celebrating our bald-headed friends!