animal week: the african white backed vulture

Or as the Zoo’s website calls him: Vulture, African White Backed.  In this shot, he is looking right at you, which is hard to catch.  Vultures have magnificent profiles, and they always seem to give you their best side.

Vultures are common characters in popular culture.  They sometimes act as harbingers of death, darkness and destruction, or personifications of ugliness– neither of which I think is fair.  Vultures are nature’s recycling team, and I always think they look sort of majestic and thoughtful, like they have seen everything come and go and end up rotting on the ground and have gone beyond cynicism into the realm of deep philosophy.  More positively, a pair of vultures are a common “Greek chorus”,  especially in Westerns, watching the story unfold and commenting on the goings on  and the personalities of the characters.  I always like to see a vulture in a story.

And they have magnificent wings.  Even if you don’t share my fondness for vultures, you may need to draw feathered wings sometime, and a vulture reference may be just what you need.  This African white backed vulture will always be here to help you with his dark primary/flight feathers and light colored secondaries.  He’s like a living wing chart.

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