Yes, I know. Vultures seem like a strange thing to write about and even stranger to have them play a significant role in a story.

We’re used to seeing them at the side of the road pecking at road kill. Or winging in circles high in the sky. By the way, did you know you can distinguish vultures from other high flying birds by the tips of their wings? They look like spread fingers.

You can find vultures around the world. There are 23 species, including the California condor and the Andean condor. Only Antarctica and Australia are without a species of vulture. And even though they are highly adaptable, 14 species are threatened with extinction due to poisoning, gun shots and auto collisions.

Those bald vulture heads that contribute to its shiver-inducing looks have a purpose. Because they eat carrion (things dead for a while), those bald heads and necks mean there is no place for bacteria to burrow into and cause infection. They can eat dead or rotting meat that other birds or animals would find toxic. It is in this way that they perform a crucial role in the balance of nature.

In the morning sun, vultures will sit with wings spread wide in what is called the “horaltic pose” in order to warm themselves and let the heat of the sun clean their feathers.

After my dream about the woman on the horse and the vultures, I researched the vulture. In addition to some of the above information, I also discovered that the vulture is considered a sacred bird in places like ancient Turkey and ancient Upper Egypt, and Tibet. In Egypt, the pharaoh wore the cobra and the head of the vulture on their foreheads as symbols of protection. The goddess Nekhbet was portrayed as a vulture.

So, the bird is to be honored for its role in nature as part of the cycle of life and death, themes I dealt with in my novel.

What do you think of vultures now?