One of the biggest birds in our neighborhood is the black vulture (Coragyps atratus). While it won't win any beauty contests, it is certainly one of the more valuable residents. Unlike the city employees who are are tasked with keeping our roads cleared of debris, the vultures efficiently and, best of all, for no pay, eliminate the numerous casualties that occur when animals and vehicles collide. From small morsels such as squirrels and doves to banquets of coyote, deer and dogs, vultures gather quickly and devour most of what has been tire-tenderized before it has baked for the 5-7 days that would otherwise pass between report and response of human intervention. The rapid removal of carcasses is especially important in our warm climate, as disease carrying flies and scavenging raccoons, opossums and skunks being lured into a residential area is less than desirable, not to mention the aromatic assault of decomposing flesh.
While the featherless head of a vulture might not appeal to our aesthetics, it is extremely effective for its purpose. The bird can plunge its long beak deep into a mangled corpse and not soil its plumage, as the bare skin is much easier to keep clean. The only downside to having vultures perched on our light posts or feasting in our streets is the size of their scat.