Friday, February 27, 2015

Do Vultures Really Eat Only Dead Prey?

Know the stereotype about a flock of vultures circling overhead, waiting for potential prey to die? They then approach the dead prey, feasting as they pick it apart. Can it be true that they don't kill a prey, but wait until it dies?

Nature shows have televised birds of prey, such as eagles and owls, targeting live prey and grabbing them with their talons. View an eagle swooping and snagging a fish. View a great gray owl "sniping" a vole, detecting and snatching it from under snow.

Well, I wasn't sure about vultures/buzzards being patient enough to wait for prey to die before they eat them. However, poking around google yields some interesting contrast between vultures and buzzards. From Is There a Difference Between a Vulture and a Buzzard?:
Buteos are true birds of prey. Unlike vultures, they have feathered heads and they hunt for and kill live prey, although they can and will eat carrion if it's available. … if you want to use the proper terminology, use the word "vulture" when talking about a scavenging bird with a sharp beak and a (usually) bald head, and "buzzard" when you're talking about a bird from the Buteo genus, such as the Common Buzzard.
From Difference Between Buzzards & Vultures:
New World vultures have very weak feet, which is fine for them since they don’t use them to grasp prey. They have a keen sense of smell. ... buzzard hawks and Old World vultures have strong feet to grasp prey and a weak sense of smell.

Vultures everywhere are known for eating carrion, otherwise known as dead animals. ... Buzzard hawks are birds of prey, eating small animals, insects and carrion.
I decided to look up "carrion". The definition sounds more specific than just dead meat—"dead and putrefying flesh". Ew! Putrefy means "to render putrid; cause to rot or decay with an offensive odor". Hooboy! Big difference between carnivore (essentially, flesh eater) and carrion eater!

Lots of cartoon images are available where one vulture says to its branch buddy, Patience my ass! I'm going to kill something!". I noted that most of the images use the more casual "gonna" in place of "going to". (I created my own vulture-pair image by using the YouTube video "Simple Art Style - How to draw a Vulture" as my guide.)

The pictures are from and, respectively. Thanks to Steven Schwartaman for permission to use them. Please visit and subscribe to his Portraits of Wildflowers blog for daily nature pictures and great commentary—way more than just wildflowers!

My takeaway from the vultures/buzzard research is that vultures dine on already dead meat, and buzzards hunt. Hmm, a wordplay term that contributes to muddying the contrast—vulture capitalist, a derogatory term for venture capitalist. In poking around at definitions for vulture capitalist, the similarity in characteristics seem to be that the prey is dying, and the vultures are waiting.

Update: March 30, 2015
Recently have received and found further info about vultures killing and eating prey, rather than waiting for prey to die.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Grateful for Autofills By Google and IMDB

How's your spelling for unusual names? Do you use autofill features to help spell words or names correctly? My Word Trips article from mid-May 2013 discusses words and meanings that cause me to slow down and do lookups. This time, I have some even more difficult-to-spell (imho) names—some sky objects, a couple of celebrity-star surnames, and additional spellcheck-stopper names. Use Google and IMDB for GREAT spelling helpers.

One starry starry night object that sends me to Google EVERY TIME is Pleiades. Hard to believe three different, consecutive vowels. The "i" before "E" except after "C" rule doesn't work here, and the "A" doesn't help. For readers who don't know anything about Pleiades, it's a great-looking star cluster in the northern hemisphere in the winter. The cluster looks like a smudge if viewing with the naked eye; it looks awesome with binoculars, and spectacular through a telescope.

More sky objects that have recently given me trouble with spelling are anything that starts with "Al", which makes me think of Al Borland from Home Improvement. Anyway, Google to the autofill rescue! Aldebaran and Albireo are both stars that give me problems.

Can anyone easily name the comet that Rosetta orbited around and that Philae landed on? Remember that Philae, unfortunately, wound up in a shady area of the comet? (I did Google search for Rosetta Philae comet. The two proper nouns, fortunately, don't tax my speller power much.) Bingo! One search result yields the eye-boggling comet name—67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko. ¡Ay, caramba!

Coming down to earth, Kyle MacLachlan is an actor I've seen in several movies and shows over MANY years. And I actually need to look him up on IMDB before I can remember his surname. For that matter, if he's not in recent roles, I forget if he's Lyle or Kyle. So, I need to find him via Dune or Desperate Housewives. Recently, he's also been on Big Bang Theory and Portlandia.

Now for some guilty-pleasure gossip! I'd read a few weeks ago that Miley Cyrus has been dating Patrick Schwarzenegger (son of Ahnold) and can't spell his surname. C'mon! She should show the guy some respect by learning it, even if they're both dating each other because of famous names for currency.

In sports, I recently encountered the names for the European figure skating women champions—Elizaveta Tuktamysheva, Elena Radionova, and Anna Pogorilaya. Take a deep breath before attempting to pronounce or spell!

In younger years of grade school spelling tests, my scores were nearly all 100%. Of course, I think proper nouns tended to be omitted from word lists. I'd have problem with some of these names I provided. What names give you heartburn?