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Audubon experimented to see if buzzards located their food by sight or smell, and in 1826 he published an article that noted, for example, that buzzards were attracted to a stuffed deer on the basis of sight alone. When controversy followed , Audubon asked Bachman to devise additional experiments. Bachman’s experiments included attracting buzzards to a painting of a dead sheep. This experiment was repeated more than fifty times, and the buzzards never discovered putrid meat concealed nearby. Bachman noted that although buzzards have nostrils and some kind of olfactory organs, the species common in the American South clearly did not use them to locate their prey. Bachman called for experiments on other species of vulture, and he urged Audubon’s critics to repeat the same experiments or to conduct ones of their own: “It has always appeared to me an act of injustice to condemn any man for expressing an opinion on subjects of Natural History . . . particularly when the error could be so easily detected by instituting a similar course of experiments.” At that point, the public criticism ceased. More recently, Bachman’s conclusions have been questioned, but, as he stated, until “a similar course of experiments” disproves an experiment that was conducted fifty times, his conclusions deserve consideration. Bachman’s title for the article refers to a “carrion crow,” which was a common name for the Black Vulture (Coragyps atratus). The Turkey Buzzard is often called the Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura). Currently, the prevailing view among ornithologists is that the Turkey Buzzard relies to a large extent on smell to find its prey, but if so, it is one of the few birds in the world that does (Animal Diversity Web; University of Michigan Museum of Zoology). Since Bachman’s often-repeated experiments seemed conclusive to him and to many witnesses, Experiments Made on the Habits of the Vultures Experiments on the Habits of Vultures 71 attempts should be made to replicate and to account for his results. Other experiments need to be designed to determine how far away an odor can be detected by the subspecies of Turkey Buzzard that inhabits the eastern United States. It is one of six subspecies in North and South America. An Account of some experiments made on the habits of the Vultures inhabiting Carolina, the Turkey Buzzard,* and the Carrion Crow,** particularly as it regards the extraordinary powers of smelling, usually attributed to them. By J. Bachman [Charleston: John Bachman]. Although the Vultures inhabiting the Southern States are among the most common of our larger species of Birds, remaining with us during the whole year, building their nests in the hollows of fallen trees and stumps around our plantations, resting on our house tops and seeking their food around our markets and in the very streets of our cities, yet it appears that a difference of opinion exists with regard to some of their faculties and particularly whether they find their food by their sense of smell or of sight. It has been the long established belief of all civilized nations since the time of the Romans that Vultures were possessed of extraordinary olfactory powers by which they were enabled to scent their food at the distance of many miles. Whether this opinion was founded on truth or whether it was a vulgar error, having its origin with the thousands of others which have been handed down from age to age originating in ignorance or superstition, cannot be fully ascertained until satisfactory experiments are made on the olfactory powers of the Vultures of Southern Europe, Asia and Africa. All the writers on American Ornithology have ascribed to the Vultures of the U. States the same extraordinary powers of smell with the single exception of Mr. Audubon, who in a paper published in Jameson ’s Journal, Edinburgh, 1826, detailed a series of experiments made in America several years previous from which he came to the conclu- * Cathartes Aura Ill. ** Cathartes Iota. Bon. 72 Experiments on the Habits of Vultures sion that these Birds were guided to their food altogether by the eye. He found by repeated experiments that Vultures were attracted by a derived deerskin, stuffed in imitation of that animal, and that in these instances when no effluvium could exist, they could not have been led to it by the scent. He next concealed a dead animal in the heat of summer in such a way that it could not be observed by the Vultures, although the scent was not abstracted...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780820339641
Related ISBN
9780820338187
MARC Record
OCLC
759158825
Pages
400
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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