Pat Shingleton: "The Gross Turkey Vulture"
Turkey vultures are beneficial to Louisiana as they not only clean the roadways of decomposing animals, also known as "road-kill," but feasts on trash discarded from motorists. As noted in a previous column, its head-shape provides easier access inside a carcass. Noticing the scavenging vultures along our Interstates, highways and byways may be a stomach turner and another function of the bird is borderline gross. To stay cool, it uses a process known as urohydrosis which is a polite way of noting that it urinates on its legs to prevent overheating. This process serves two purposes for the vulture. The evaporating urine cools blood circulating through its legs and also activates a disinfectant that eliminates germs that the scavenger may have absorbed from an earlier breakfast, lunch or dinner.