Kaja Robinson is 53 and has a daughter about to go off to college, but she is still embroiled in bizarre, kafkaesque disputes over the $17,000 student loan she took out in the 1980s: for decades, she has had to set aside whole days to call debt collectors and try to get them to acknowledge the payments she's made -- for which she has paperwork, but which the lenders lost track of, causing her loans to balloon to $49,000.
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The thing with my Miriam Black books is, they’re all named after birds. It starts with Blackbirds, then moves to Mockingbird, The Cormorant, and now, Thunderbird. (If I can write one called Blue-Footed Booby, I will, so don’t tempt me, goddamnit.) Part of the reason for that is the mystic, supernatural symbolism sometimes associated with birds (particularly as psychopomps), and also because Miriam eventually through the story gains the ability to control birds by entering their minds. At the start of Thunderbird, she, umm, requires the help of some vultures to complete a task.
Now, vultures are pretty bad-ass birds. We don’t think of them as such – we think of them as lazy, dull scavengers, but that’s not true at all.
We have a local animal rescue near us, and they do a lot of work with rehabilitating birds – or housing birds that cannot be rehabilitated – and so I got to meet and study some vultures, and learn some charming facts about these gorgeous and grotesque harbingers of death.
Let us begin.
1.) Vultures are not only scavengers. We think of them as picking meat off roadkill, but make no mistake, some vultures are happy to go predator when it suits them. Black vultures in particular sometimes perform acts of predation on livestock. They’ll besiege baby cows and eat them alive. They’ll even find a larger cow—usually a sick one—and mob its back and peck out its eyes. (They do not generally attack healthy livestock, however.) Read the rest