This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.

Friday, 2 September 2011

Word To Use Today: vulture

A wonderful bird is the vulture.

No, really. Just because they tend to be a bit bald, have a habit of using projectile vomit to scare off interlopers, and always pee down their legs, that doesn't make them unattractive. In fact, these habits are a sign of daintiness.

Oh yes they are.

The baldness, to start with. Being bald helps vultures keep cool, for one thing, and it's also much easier to keep a bald head clean, especially when you keep having to put it inside rotting corpses.

As for the projectile vomit...well, vulture vomit is very special and important. The stomach acid of a vulture is so strong that it destroys botulinum poison, hog cholera, and anthrax. This must be a relief to everyone.

Vulture pee is also special. It kills any germs on their feet, which tend to go where no man has voluntarily gone before.

The terrible news, though, is that in India and Pakistan the use of the painkiller Diclofenac in animals has resulted in the deaths of 99.9% of vultures. Diclofenac is so poisonous to vultures that even the tiny amounts of the drug left in animal corpses is enough to kill the poor birds. The use of Diclofenac has just been banned, hurray, but the vultures have come perilously close to extinction.

Does it matter? Well, in India the lack of vultures has lead to an increase in wild dogs, which don't destroy the germs the vultures do. So, even to humans, the decline of the vulture matters a LOT.

Word To Use Today: vulture. This word comes the Latin vultur, and perhaps from the Latin vellere, to pluck or tear.


  1. This blog is most educational - a positive public service, really. I had NO IDEA about any of this and am now worried about the poor vultures. Is this horrid poison just used in India? How are vultures faring everywhere else? I am fond of them because of their name being bracketed with CULTURE! There's a lovely ad on the Tube in London showing a Vulture at a concert or some such! Dead clever...or in the case of vultures, NOT DEAD....I hope!

  2. The problem seems to be mostly in India and Nepal. The good news is that the drug Meloxicam is proving a good substitute for Diclofenac.
    The consequences of the decline of the vultures are truly enormous. The increase in the dog population has led to an estimated 50,000 extra human deaths from rabies, and it's also caused an increase in the leopard population, which are beginning to come into towns - and taking small children when the opportunity arises.

  3. It's too terrible to think about....oh dear!