Santa Barbara Bird Love: Vulture Day

One of the classic birds of autumn fiction gets its moment in the sun.

BEYOND THE GLOWER: There are signs that you're watching a romantic comedy -- a sudden downpour, surprise meetings in elevators, a merry misunderstanding or two -- and signs that you're viewing a western (horses clip-clopping, cowpokes, saddles). But what are the tropes of the scary movie? Yes, eerie harpsichord-type music. Yes, an old house at the end of a remote road. And, most definitely, a vulture perched high above the crumbling manse. He's looking peevish and creepy and foul-tempered, and his wings seem to form some sort of foreboding cape. In short? You're in a horror flick, boy howdy, when you reach full-on vulture ville. But some birdists feel that relegating vultures to the creepier end of the cinematic or bookly spectrum isn't fair. After all, they can't see ghosts -- at least we don't think -- and they don't typically live outside enchanted castles or magical cottages. What vultures do do is delight we humans with their beauty and wingspan and grace, like the ones at the Santa Barbara Zoo. Three species of vulture call the American Riviera animal park home, including Ruppell's Griffon vultures, turkey vultures, and, you guessed it, the California condor. And the zoo is ready to fete some of its most famous feathery denizens with a special holiday.

IT'S VULTURE AWARENESS DAY... on Sunday, Aug. 31. Of course, to the vultures, and the keepers who care for them, every day is Vulture Day, but visitors will get a bundle of info from the keeper talks while engaging in vulture-focused activities and crafts. And will there be chat about conservation and helping the vulture, who helps the wider world maintain a "healthy ecosystem"? There shall be. You get into all of the vulture-y doings by paying zoo admission.

AND LOOK... if vultures like glowering from dead trees in fictional scare flicks, we're not going to harsh that particular mellow. But how come we never see a bluebird or cardinal whistling joyfully outside the crumbling castle? Storytellers, time to refresh your go-to avian associations.

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