National Geographic : 1933 Jul
THE NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE Photograph by Ameri A BEDOUIN OF TRANS-JORDAN WITH HIS I skin on large carcasses may resist the bills of the scavengers until softened by putrefaction, when the birds gorge on a meal of the utmost repulsiveness (see page 56). While we may turn in physical revulsion from contemplation of this habit, we may ponder on the adaptations that seemingly give these birds absolute immunity to the poisons, generated in decaying flesh, that would destroy any creature of ordinary digestion. The bird-eating hawks pluck most of the feathers from their prey and then tear the flesh into bits that may be swallowed. Mice are often swallowed whole, but rab bits and mammals of similar size may be partly skinned and the feet may be dis carded. The food passes down into a stomach that is thin-walled and capable of con siderable distention, and in the throat there is developed a distensible crop t h at holds a large amount of food until the stomach is read y to receive it. Bones, feathers, fur, and other hard ele ments that cannot be digested are formed into pellets and regur gitated to leave the stomach empty for another meal. These pellets accumulate be neath favored perches and offer a valuable index to the food preferences of these birds. Hawks, fal cons, and eagles carry food in their talons to their young in the nest, but vultures, which do not have powerful feet and legs, feed their young by regurgitating the con tents of the stomach. ican Colony, Jerusalem Whether t h e car HUNTING FALCON rion-feeding vultures locate the carcasses on which they feed through sight or through the sense of smell has been a subject of much controversy among naturalists, and, in spite of many observations on these abundant birds, it is far from being a settled question. VULTURES POSSESS KEEN SIGHT One group of observers contends that, as these birds soar back and forth through rising currents of air or against the wind, sometimes at high and sometimes at low elevations, they encounter the odor from carrion and follow this scent to its source. Others believe that in their flight the pierc ing eyesight of these birds brings to view possible sources of sustenance, and that vision accounts for the facility with which vultures locate their food.