Vulture: The Private Life Of An Unloved Bird, by Katie Fallon
In general, it would be accurate to say that the vulture is unloved by most people. They are thought of as gross for eating carrion. They are regularly made fun of as stupid or greedy in cartoons that make them out to be villains. They are hunted and killed, poisoned and reviled, and even something that is as basic as the goal of keeping them alive through avoiding that which harms them, like lead bullets, has become fiercely fought over because of the lack of trust that exists in the contemporary world concerning the implications of such regulations. That said, if the author and I have some different opinions about religion, given what she expresses in this book, I think that we can both agree that the vulture is an animal that is worth regarding well. The author is shrewd in recognizing the personality that different vultures have and in respecting and appreciating their obvious intellect. I think in general that a great many animals are more intelligent and observant than we give them credit for, and the author is clearly a partisan of the vulture and desires it to be thought of highly and respected by others as well.
This book is about 200 pages long and ten chapters long. The various chapters of the book are intercut with a story about a vulture broken up into smaller segments. The author begins with a discussion of the spokesbird, an introduction to the subject of the vulture. The author then turns to vulture culture and the way that vultures appear in our own culture, and even have a festival of their own in Ohio (1). The author then looks at the public lives of private birds and sees how vultures appear in public (2). This leads to a look at rockshelter and the ways that human beings and vultures have lived in the same areas for thousands of years, even to the point of sharing the same areas for shelter (3). After that comes a discussion of counting and looking for vultures in the arid Southwest (4) as well as a discussion of how vultures recuperate from injury in bird shelters (5). A chapter looks at a hill of supposedly sacred eagles (6) and another looks at the migratory patterns of many New World Vultures (7). There is a chapter on Virginia’s efforts to help vultures (8) as well as the possible presence of vultures on Gettsyburg that the author muses about (9), closing with a discussion of a search for a particular vulture (10) and a discussion of how vultures can have people to speak for them in an epilogue as well as an afterword that examines what can be done for them, after which there are acknowledgements, a bibliography, and an index.
One of the joys of this book, if you happen to be someone who thinks fondly of vultures, is the way that there are aspects of vultures that are important in our culture and many others. The death of vultures due to bovine treatments in India, for example, has become a public health crisis, and a great many American vulture species have been harmed by the continued use of lead bullets, something the writer frequently harps on. The author talks about spending time in various bird sanctuaries and discussing the vultures they help take care of, as well as in spending a great deal of time talking about the rehabilitation efforts as well as the use of friendly and personable vultures who cannot be released into the wild after being injured as ambassadors for the vulture kind as a whole. One can see the respect and honor that the author has for such animals, and even an appreciation of their eating and breeding habits and the struggle that they face to find an honored and accepted place in a world that needs carrion animals but does not know what to do with them. And if the author has anything to say about that, more people will become more fond of these animals and treat them better also.