As I sit at my desk this afternoon, I look upon a beautiful view of Panama City. I’m looking eastward where I see skyscrapers in the foreground and blue-green hills in the background. Of course, typical of this area are billowing clouds, blue patches of sky (it is the rainy season after all) and vultures. Vultures!?
Yes, vultures. In fact the species that I am seeing, to the best of my on-line research, are Lesser yellow-headed vultures. What I have read tells me that there are also Greater yellow-headed vultures and that this was the only yellow-headed species until 1964 when ornithologists discovered that there are really two types of yellow-headed vultures. Greater or Lesser, they are majestic birds with enviable vision and aerial prowess.
Every day, looking out my window, I see these birds circling and swooping, soaring and fluttering. Sometimes, they are so high in the air, that they are barely visible and at other times they are low and it is easy to make out their coloring and to distinguish younger birds from the older ones. Ballet and acrobatics in slow motion come to mind as I see them in the sky over the Bay of Panama or even right out side my window. Until today, I have never seen one land. Still, I have never seen one of them pick up some delicious prey.
If you’re ever in Panama City, or elsewhere for that matter, on Mexico’s coasts and southward for example, you can see them perched near fish houses or way up in the air. A few days ago, I saw hundreds of them hovering over the Mercado del Mariscos, a major landmark in an old part of town called Casco Viejo. This is the fish market where fishers drop of their daily catches. People crowd the halls inside the market and the birds hover the airways. The catch is apparently bountiful for both humans and fowl…and probably for lots of other little creatures that I would not to see.
Back to the vultures. I bring them up because they offer me a daily invitation to just sit back and watch. It is not as if I am harried so I can take all the time I like and watch them several times a day. As I have written this, the vultures I mentioned at the beginning of this missive have moved to the south of me, right outside my living room window. They are still soaring and have been befriended by another excellent aerial artist, a wren. At a distance I see a jet coming in for a landing; it looks clunky compared to the beauty of these birds.
This link may be of interest. It explains how vultures gain such lofty heights.