Vultures Grooming a King?
Guest Post by Nancy Dobias
When you go to Myakka River State Park, the posted speed limit signs are there for a reason. Around the bridge, the posted speed is 5 mph. Because this is one of the hot spots for viewing Myakka's wildlife, young visitors might dash from one side of the bridge to the other in hopes of counting as many alligators as possible.
Birders wielding binoculars may also be found on the bridge hoping to spot when the Great Blue Heron's little ones might peek above the nest for the first time and take a gander at what is a'waitin'.
Most of the posted speed in the park is 25 mph but if you intend to catch a glimpse of the wildlife, it's best to go a little slower. At 25 mph, it's not likely you would have spotted a lone turkey strutting his stuff as he looked around for the love of his life. You might also have missed the "totem pole" created by one of Myakka's more artistic vultures as he greeted all who were entering his domain.
I was certainly glad I spotted both of them. Instead of going in the direction of the birdwalk, I decided to see what was happening at the weir and I was glad I did. It was ALLIGATOR CITY at the weir and their hosts were the VULTURES! I didn't know what was happening, but it must have been important for each alligator seemed to have its own personal grouping of vultures as attendants. Were they choosing the “King of the River" I wondered?
One vulture seemed to be intent upon making his alligator The Most Attractive as he pecked away at any loose dirt that may have marred the appearance of his friend and affected his chances for the ascendency to the throne.
Another vulture was working on his alligator having The Most Buff Body. When I saw them, the vulture and an egret were putting the alligator through his paces by having him vigorously swim up and down the channel. Choosing a king based upon strength and stamina were at the core of their campaign.
Not to be outdone, another macho aficionado was trying to encourage his alligator to race after some limpkins who were grazing along the shoreline. "Prove your worth" was this vulture's mantra. Unless the alligator had mastered the art of running with his eyes closed, he didn't look as though any vigorous sprinting was to be in his future. Perhaps he believed the race did not belong to the swiftest but to he who was the most rested.
After watching them for several minutes, I couldn't help but think that the vultures sure had their work cut out for them with this crew. From what I saw, these alligators had no interest in anything but a peaceful blissful slumber.
It sure would be interesting to see what happens when night falls. Maybe one of them WAS listening.