26 Poems. Poem 9. Vultures thrive in Andalucian Skies







My first encounter with this most alarming bird

Was from a rickshaw, bald heads gathering around a corpse

A photo taken, a memory forgotten, no remorse

Until those eyes met mine and I finally heard.

Perfectly poised to penetrate death

A holy land where human harm leaves only dog

To scavenge the remains of a very manmade mess

The vultures gone to save the sacred cows distress

Slow painful death by inner unknown toxic smog.

Perfectly poisoned by human kind

And then a vulture of a different kind arose

Above the canyons of an ancient world made new

Condors with wingspans lifting in the thermal flows

Photos to remind us that now they too are few.

Perfect flight, sight, smell to search out death

Within a classroom Africa’s vultures I undermine.

Love of a feathered mate counts the human cost

To pass exams, context, effect, unthread that line

Where one key word shouts out what has been lost.

Perfect partners raising young

Here, the vultures rise again in Spanish skies

Mostly griffon with pointed feathered wings

Black, maybe, if really large, the vulture kings

Alive, hanging on that human thread that tries.

Love protecting life


This poem is about my own encounters with vultures, from my early years in India, where I took many sights for granted as vultures were so common then and such perfect scavengers. In my middle years I had a wonderful trip with my daughters to Peru where we saw condors in the Colca Canyon. In my teaching years the poem Vultures by Chinua Achebe would haunt me, not because of the vultures but because of the concentration camp name which none of our students had heard of. English lessons then would become history lessons too.


Vultures are endangered and face many threats, electrocution, poisoning, loss of habitat, and in India because there was no awareness why the vulture population was dying off until the link bewtween drugs given to sacred cows was found to be lethal for vultures.

Here in our Andalucian skies we can see vultures above our house. Some may be the very endangered black vultures from the Aroche colony, or more likely the griffon vultures, which from one of the links seems to suggest there has been some conservation success because of the joint efforts of different groups and laws to protect these amazing birds.


The poem has been constructed according to my 26 poem challenge for the conservation charity the RSPB who also support Birdlife International. There are 26 lines but the italicised lines are also 26 words in praise of the important place vultures have in nature and in human lives. The feral dogs in India that have moved in to take over the place of vultures are more dangerous to humans than vultures have ever been.

If you wish to donate to my challenge the link is below.


24 thoughts on “26 Poems. Poem 9. Vultures thrive in Andalucian Skies”

  1. Thanks, Andrea, they may appear quite ugly birds with rather disgusting tastes! But yes useful and far cleaner and less dangerous than all the feral dogs that have taken over their niche in India. They are magnificent in flight though


      1. Yes, their eyes. And also how they are portrayed in films and cartoons; they are always sad/droopy or viciously, desperately fighting for carcasses. The association with death has been created from that.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Thanks for that as the way we anthropomorphise animals can have a major effect on the real species. Hope all going well for you. We are cautiously coming out of lockdown here in Spain.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Glad you think vultures are amazing too. They are such wonderful birds. I am fortunate to live near a bird conservancy which does amazing work with vultures in Europe, India and Africa. They also have some themselves and so I have been lucky enough to fly a few. Such an incredible experiencing seeing them up close

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Is that in Olhao? We saw some griffon vultures there recuperating in the bird hospital at the nature reserve and one outside flying around and keeping close to its mate. I imagine it would be amazing to be able to be up really close. We hope to be in Portugal before a hopeful July flight back to UK.


      1. Wow that’s unusual for them to be there. How extraordinary. We’ve seen them in the hills but not in the reserve

        The conservacy where we see them is in the UK. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Hope all well, am ‘snowed’ under with more work outside and preparing to leave in July. Think we will then be in UK for a long time too. The vulture circling must have been a mate to the one in the bird hospital at the Olhao reserve.

        Liked by 1 person

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