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September 2, 2014 > Getting to know vultures

Getting to know vultures

The arrival of September typically puts people in mind of Labor Day vacations and the return to school. But the month also marks ÒInternational Vulture Awareness Day;Ó events on the first Saturday of each September raise awareness and increase conservation of vultures throughout the world.

There has been a decline in vulture populations with threats of extinction. While vultures are scavengers, associated with death and deemed creepy and unattractive, they serve an important and necessary function. Vultures dispose of decaying bodies of dead animals, which limit the spread of disease. These birds have highly acidic stomachs that kill most of the bacteria they ingest, making them a reliable and efficient method of waste removal.

The Birds of Prey Programme in South Africa and the Hawk Conservancy Trust in England instituted Vulture Awareness Days but decided to cast a wider net, working to expand events promoting vulture conservation and awareness across the globe. Organizations throughout the world now participate in ÒInternational Vulture Awareness DayÓ including India, Pakistan, Spain, Portugal, Nepal, Serbia, France, South Africa, Botswana, Croatia, as well as the U.S. and United Kingdom.

HaywardÕs Sulphur Creek Nature Center has participated for several years. Their ÒInternational Vulture Awareness DayÓ event will be held on September 6 with crafts, face painting, and an opportunity to learn more about these unique birds. Sulphur Creek Naturalists Miranda Britton and Samantha Conner will talk about vultures, including their importance and why theyÕre good to have around. The presentation will also feature information about locally found condors, a type of vulture that is endangered, and efforts to save them. The event is designed to teach the community about vultures, a creature that most people donÕt think too much about says Britton. ÒTheyÕre a very important part of our ecosystem, being the cleanup crew,Ó she says.

There are two turkey vultures in residence at Sulphur Creek who will be out and about at the event, giving attendees a close up look at the bird of honor. Prince Charming was found in Oakland in 1989 with the tip of his wing missing, keeping him permanently grounded. His female counterpart, Torac, has been at Sulphur Creek for 40 years. She was possibly raised by people and is imprinted, which means she doesnÕt know sheÕs a vulture. Torac originally arrived with rickets, causing an inability to fly.

ÒInternational Vulture Awareness DayÓ is a great time to increase your knowledge of the animal kingdom and learn how our diverse environment operates.

International Vulture Awareness Day
Saturday, Sep 6
1 p.m. Ð 3 p.m.
Sulphur Creek Nature Center
1801 D St, Hayward
(510) 881-6747

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