In Gary Snyder's works, birds, plants, and animals are depicted with some particular attention in order to elicit an interest in a specific set of natural relationships. Among them all, the vulture originally had a bad reputation as an ugly bird in Western civilization; however, Snyder rid himself of this impression. Then he reconstructs a new image for this bird by using old mythology and religions with a fresh approach, focusing on the natural environment.
In Snyder's "A Sinecure for P. Whalen," he compares his best friend, P. Whalen to a vulture. The vulture in this poem has a close connection to a Celtic mythological character, Gwion, which crosses a line and transforms into other life forms including a bird. Snyder suggests that Whalen and Gwion are equally matched in the ability to make peace among various aspects. As the title of the poem suggests, the vulture is a sinecure for Whalen who made a worldwide journey to become a practicing Buddhist and a poet, just like Snyder.
"On Vulture Peak," on the other hand, Snyder alludes to the image of Larger Sutra Mandala, representations of the Buddha, bodhisattvas and gods that make up the universe. Snyder takes the title, "On Vulture Peak" from a part of the Mandala, where Buddha is preaching, and Snyder takes from Buddhism the philosophy that teaches respect for all life and for wild systems.
The vulture is one of the most important birds in his works as an ecological scavenger as well as the mythological trickster and a symbol of the religion. Snyder does not judge things according to preconceived ideas of Western civilization based on man's control over nature. Snyder establishes an idea that all living things are subject to the laws of nature, through the environmental imagination. The vulture is of great value to the cycle of the natural world.