Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Terms of Venery

{The Great & Mysterious Turkey Vulture Migration}

Just a quick afternoon post about the turkey vulture migration. Yes, turkey vultures migrate. I had no idea either, and I'm usually up on this kind of stuff. As I was driving home from the studio Monday night both the dogs started whining as we passed a neighborhood beside the road. I looked over my shoulder for a moment and gasped with incredulity- there were hundreds of turkey vultures roosting in the tamarisk pines. I did a quick U-turn and snapped a few pictures in the dwindling light that aren't particularly good but you get the idea.

I've never seen so many turkey vultures in my life. I only shot pictures of the fellas in the nearest tree, but there were hundreds of them scattered around every conceivable roosting place among all the houses.  The whole experience was made even weirder by the fact that there wasn't another soul to be seen in the neighborhood; it was as if I were the only human witnessing the onset of the apocalypse.


Apparently there is a little-understood phenomenon in Southern California in which turkey vultures migrate in uncommonly enormous numbers. Like, up to ten thousand tv's in the sky at once. But I digress; this post is really an excuse to share with you my nerdish love for TERMS OF VENERY; that is, the proper terminology for groups of animals.  And today, good people, I learned that what we call a group of turkey vultures depends on what they are doing.

Sleeping turkey vultures are a roost.
Flying or migrating tv's are a kettle.
Eating tv's are a convergence.

So I saw a roost of turkey vultures.  If I'd left the studio a little earlier I would have seen a kettle, and it makes me sad I missed out on a flying kettle of anything. A coalition of cheetahs sounds quite purposeful, whereas a tiding of magpies might be more amusing.  I don't mind a murder of crows but a business of ferrets is too many ferrets in the same place at the same time for my taste. While living in the West Village my writer friend Maggie, who is the ultimate wordsmith, came up with the term for a group of fabulous gay men: a sparkle. Almost as good as a flamboyance of flamingos.

(If you just must know more about terms of venery I suggest you buy James Lipton's beautifully illustrated, delightfully bizarre masterpiece on collective nouns, "An Exultation of Larks." Or you can tell P. to get it for me for Christmas.)

Have a great Wednesday (now that it's half over.) xo


  1. I do think I would like that book. The vultures are very halloweenish!Oh what a sight. Thanks so much for visiting my blog. I loved reading your comment about your father. What a terrific dad. Do you think he wants to adopt a really old daughter?!! I wish I had a fringe jacket.
    Have a restful evening out there in the desert.
    :D deb

  2. The things you learn! I never even knew of the existence of Turkey Vultures let alone a roost, kettle or convergence of them.

  3. It looks like you are putting that camera to good use! I only got a photo of ONE vulture, because Pono had barked furiously and scared them all away. (save the one, brave, brave t.v.)
    Loved all your terms of venery!

  4. oh crap! the morning of our wedding they SWARMED us @ spin & margies. it was sooooo trippy. looksie!...

    ps; ithouse, epic.

  5. i meant to link to this:

  6. I am in love with the photographs! my goodness i feel like they should be ia scene to a movie! i once was under a group of these flying over head- it was an incredible hauntng feeling, a dark cloud you could touch!

    oh i am so glad you visited- cause i love it here!


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