Vulture was published by Reaktion Books in 2011. You can visit the publisher’s website here.
From the blurb:
Vultures circling in the sky above, or simply sitting and watching, are almost universally associated with death. But, while it is undoubtedly true that vultures have taken to a life of scavenging with particular enthusiasm, there is far more to this diverse and fascinating family of birds than a simple association with putrefaction and the macabre.
Vulture offers an enlightening new natural and cultural history of this much-misunderstood bird. There are big vultures and little vultures; vultures that are despised and others that are deeply loved; and there are vultures that eat predominantly bone, and others that have gone (mostly) vegetarian. In human communities vultures have occupied predictable roles like disposing of the dead and officiating over human sacrifices, but they have just as often been viewed as courageous and noble creatures, as indispensible in the containment of waste and disease, as world creators and divine mothers.
Thom van Dooren explores these many histories, from some of the earliest-known Neolithic sites in which vultures are thought to have consumed the dead to the renaming of the California Condor and contemporary efforts to reintroduce the bearded vulture into the Alps. Highlighting the rich diversity of vultures and the many ways in which people have understood and lived with them, Vulture invites a new appreciation and wonder for these incredible birds.
‘Thom van Dooren crafts a heartfelt defence of the scavenger birds. He finds beauty and nobility in everything, from their acidic digestive tracts, which make them invulnerable even to anthrax, to their collective ability to skeletonize a ritually presented human corpse in an hour . . . captivating.’ – TLS
‘This little book by environmental philosopher and anthropologist Thom van Dooren could go a long way toward cleaning up the reputation of our local scavengers and their vulture brethren.’ – Natural History
‘Vultures are probably the most misunderstood of all birds. This lovely book, filled with art and drawings, seeks to provide a more complete and nuanced understanding and appreciation for these majestic birds.’ – Grrlscientist, The Guardian
‘Vulture is part of a wonderful series of books, each of which is devoted to a single animal, including a number of surprising and unlikely species . . . I have enjoyed many other books published by Reaktion, and this is no exception. Each wide-ranging, yet relatively short volume reviews numerous aspects of the animals under consideration, summarizing what is known about their behavior, their ecological niche, and their relationship with humans, including their significance in various cultures and religions. In engaging prose accompanied by a large number of color and black-and-white illustrations, Thom van Dooren continues this tradition and shows that quirky and long-lived vultures are amazingly diverse and highly misunderstood . . . With populations of vultures in serious decline globally, let us hope that this inspirational, informative, and myth-breaking book will engender a renewed appreciation and respect for these magnificent birds and help them survive in a human-dominated world . . . I really enjoyed this book and highly recommend it.’ – Marc Bekoff, Journal of Animal Ethics