I recently finished Katie Fallon’s book Vulture: The private life of an unloved bird. Although not a birder, I used to work with Katie at Virginia Tech and was interested in her latest work. The subject matter intrigued me: I’m a sucker for the misunderstood, the ugly, and the unloved. My time available to read is very limited and I’m always worried about whether or not my book choices will be worth the time. I was not disappointed.
In her book, Fallon shares her rich personal experience as a bird and vulture lover, as well as reviews the socio-cultural and scientific literature regarding vultures. She makes a compelling case for the protection of a creature commonly seen in the skies of the Appalachian region (spoiler: bullets containing lead are bad! But hunting is good and necessary for vultures).
On of the most poetic elements of the book is how the author juxtaposes her own journey of motherhood with that of a vulture. Fallon introduces each chapter with an intimate portrait of a vulture ready to mate, caring for her young, taking flight. Through the narrative, the reader meets Fallon on her vulture adventures without children, then pregnant, then with babe, and later toddler. The cycle for both mothers is ready to begin again.
I also loved the unfolding love story of Katie’s courtship of Lew, destined to become an educational bird. I’m not sure I could ever be induced to get into a cage with an injured vulture, feeding him bits of chopped mice, but I enjoyed reading Katie’s comic telling of her gruesome journey.
If you’re a reader who benefits for reading about topic beloved by it’s author, pick up a copy of Vulture. Fallon’s enthusiasm for vultures is infectious and you, too, will soon appreciate your neighborhood scavenger. Katie Fallon is also the author of Cerulean Blues: A personal search for a vanishing songbird (2011), and she co-founded the Avian Conservation Center of Appalachia.
[Picture description: A vulture in flight over the mountains and Guyandotte River, WV in early spring.]