Posted by: atowhee | June 23, 2020


Here in the western U.S. the venerable Turkey Vulture seems to be in good shape right now.  People are poisoning fewer animals with strychnine and d-Con and other killers that just keep on.  Be grateful, Old World Vultures are in trouble as this report explains.

grffn-vultrs7-from-belowA Eurasian vulture ranks among the coolest birds I have ever seen. Years ago I saw a flock of recently reintroduced Griffon Vultures in a canyon in southeastern France.  Click here for the blog I wrote at that time.

GVs are in the family Accipitridae.


The Old World vultures are related to our buteos, harriers, Latin American Harpy Eagle (world’s largest eagle).  Griffons can have wingspans equal to our California Condors and White Pelicans, nine feet or more.  They often move about in groups.

Cathartidae is the family of our New World vultures and condors. You can click here for a look at their complex genetic relationship to other raptors.

Remember, taxonomy can be fun.


It is good to know that sometimes people get organized to do something really good.  Right now that is something we all need to remember and relish.  In one case a campaign to put up owl boxes in the United Kingdom has led to a Barn Owl population boom. Everyone is happy except the mice and voles.

When I did Christmas Bird Counts in the Rogue Valley here in Oregon we always knew we could get our Barn Owl(s) if we went into the vineyards and tapped on the pole holding up an owl box.  Barn Owls are champion mousers who in turn love to dine on wine grapes.  I suspect the owls really appreciated those grape-flavored rodents.  I can almost imagine a nibble of merlot mouse steak or, better yet, tempranillo tartare.

Barn Owls are one of the few species found naturally on all five continents except Antarctic.  Can you name the others?


Today life on Earth seems uncertain as we wobble into the Sixth Extinction.  Click here for a piece that describes how our misuse of our planet keeps triggering epidemics and likely led to the current covid situation.  We must admit we are part of the universe, not its masters.  We are animals, not gods. Money cannot save us from our mistakes.  There is no eternal script that insures human success or survival.  We must have some humility if our species is to continue.  Allosaurus, mastodon, Great Auk, ammonites, giant sloth. We must learn the song of the trilobites, and sing it daily as a lesson to never unlearn.



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