The answer is BLACK VULTURE (see Photo 24M).
And the carcass is
from an OPOSSUM, the poster child for roadkill.
Now for the surprise. This quiz was not only a test in tracking, but
also AWARENESS. Yes, take another look, the answer was right in front of
you in Photo 24C, the vulture is up in the tree. That was intentional, I
told you to look downwards at the vegetation. HAHAHAHAHAHA!!!
(I was driving down the road, saw the vulture standing in the sand,
and RRRRRRRTTTT, slammed on the brakes. Oh boy oh boy oh boy, I thought,
a chance at looking at VULTURE tracks! Never seen vulture tracks before!
Much to the annoyance of my travelling companions, I waited around until
the bird flew away, then spent half an hour studying and photographing
In my case, I saw the bird first, so obviously did not have to guess
who made the tracks. But if I hadn’t seen the bird & did have to guess,
I would reason as follows:
- The animal eats carrion.
- The animal has 3 toes pointing forward, and one toe pointing
backward. This identifies it as a bird. (The rear toe is called the
"hallux"). I have outlined the track in Photo 24N since it is hard
to see the details in fine sand.
- The tracks are 4½ inches long, and the bird is strong enough to
drag an opossum, so this is a big bird.
- Big bird that eats carrion = Vulture.
The tracks just as easily could have been turkey vulture, which also
lives in this area. Actually a turkey vulture did descend upon the scene
and spar with the black vulture for a bit before taking off again. Eagle
or large hawk would also be possibilities, but vulture is more strongly
associated with carrion.
I hope you enjoyed this quiz as much as I enjoyed photographing the
bird & its tracks. Nature is not always pretty, but just think what it
would be like if we didn’t have the vultures around to clean up the
So long for now & stay tuned for the next quiz.