Known as ‘the cleaners’ of the desert,’ an appearance of turkey vultures circling overhead is a sure sign that something in the vicinity is dead. With haste and efficiency, the flock will find and eliminate all fleshy materials, and leave a skeleton and fur/skin in place of what was once an animal.

On the beaches in Baja, vultures oftentimes compete with seagulls for spent fish or squid that wash up on the shore. The seagulls are in first – going for the freshest of the remains, while the vultures gather to the side – waiting – to follow up and eliminate the remains. What the vultures leave is not enough to attract a fly.

While not considered a particularly handsome bird – they have turkey-like wattle around their beaks – they are in well suited for their task. They have broad short wings that let them glide aloft with little to no effort and easily spot the carcasses of dead rabbit, ground squirrel, or fish.

I came upon this group in the photograph above sitting atop one of the larger cardons in the open land behind my home. They weren’t hunting, nor drying their wings – more like they were having a chat session – gossiping about the local rabbits or the long summer’s lack of rain. The building clouds just slightly to the west hung most of the afternoon with promise, but if they let go of precious water, it was in the mountains and not the seaside plain.

This morning – vultures again down the beach hopping around/over something left behind by the tide – doing the job that they are admirable designed to complete.

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