Vulture: Nature's Ghastly Gourmet

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9780871569820: Vulture: Nature's Ghastly Gourmet
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From the bald, scarlet-headed turkey vulture to the colorful king vulture with its red-rimmed eyes to the giant California condor, vultures have been reviled as disgusting, hideous scavengers that greedily feast on rotting carcasses. Here VULTURE combines a fascinating, authoritative text with 60 dramatic color photos to examine the myth and reality of this unique creature .

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This extremely readable and graphically bold book is a real gem. Science writer and editor Wayne Grady has written a natural-history book minus the scientific jargon, without losing any scientific clout. His sources include works and interviews with vulture and condor scientists, journals from New World explorers, and early-American and contemporary naturalists. Beautiful photos of the world's various vultures provide stunning illustration to the personality of this special species; one photo shows a vulture dining on a dead water buffalo, its head buried deep in the eye socket! The book focuses most of its attention on the vulture species itself, describing the history of its maligned reputation, its evolution as a species, and its adaptation in the wake of habitat destruction. Such a discussion creates a sense of loss, but also simultaneous hope that this species may recover with some help from humans--proof offered via the condor recovery programs discussed in the final chapter. Grady clearly loves these underdogs of the avian world, and while discussing their "utility" in nature and place on the food chain, he makes the claim that we humans should remember the vultures not because they are "useful or beneficial" to us or other species, but simply because "[the vulture] exists." Some parts of Vulture do require a strong stomach, such as the descriptions of feeding habits and the photos that illustrate them, but the gross-out is part of the fun of this unique book. It is gorgeously designed and presented with humor and candor, all making for an enjoyable and compelling read and reference for bird and nature lovers alike. --Gilia Angell

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