Archive for Vultures

Turkey Vulture 4/2/18


I found this TV at an intersection in Raymond, NH. There were 3 or 4 others that flying around when I first pulled over, but they soon left making this one the late comer getting the leftovers once the others had their fill. That’s a possum he’s working over, very likely roadkill as we’re just off the shoulder of a country highway. TVs are always cruising the highways. They don’t ever kill anything but must seek out carrion to survive. They are highway waste managers.


Turkey Vulture 2/27/17

You don’t need much more evidence of global warming than regularly finding birds like this in Maine at the end of February. Twenty years ago it simply would have been unthinkable. The Turkey Vulture, aka Turkey Buzzard, John Crow, or TV, is another of those birds whose DNA tells a much different story about its evolution than you’d expect. The old story assumed all American vultures (including Condors) were closely related to the vultures of the old world. After all they have similar wings for soaring on thermals, and naked featherless heads for feeding on carrion. But turns out they’re hardly related at all, instead they’re a textbook example of convergent evolution, where similar forms evolve from much different ancestors and only look related. This TV shares more of its DNA with Accipiters—Goshawks, Coopers Hawks, and Sharpies—than it does with any vulture from Europe, Africa, or Asia.


Turkey Vulture 2/2/14


These days, a Turkey Vulture is never far away, not even in winter and not even when the temps are below freezing. I found this one hanging out at a crossroads in Greenland, NH, waiting for a lull in the traffic to pick up a roadkilled squirrel. I took this pic through the windshield of my car, but opening my door and stepping out for a clearer shot spooked it off. I probably could’ve driven around for a little bit and waited for it to come back, but that day I was on a mission to find the Spotted Towhee.


Turkey Vulture 1/18/13

For the most part Turkey Vultures disappear from southern Maine once the ground seizes up, but they’re actually not far off and a brief thaw like we had last week has them showing up out of nowhere. They’re quite big and when soaring hold their many-fingered wings in a dihedral or slight V-shape. Eagles also have fingered wingtips but their wings are much longer, and when soaring they’re held out straight from the body. They’re found over most of the temperate and tropical regions of both North and South America, and known by many different names depending on region, including Turkey Buzzard, Carrion Crow, and John Crow.


Turkey Vulture 10/19/12

Every year not only do I see more TVs, but it seems they arrive earlier in the spring, linger longer into the early winter, and appear to be expanding their range northward. Unlike the occasional Black Vultures we see, Turkey Vulture wings are two-toned from below and typically the naked pink head (gray for juves) and sometimes the ivory hook at the end of the beak will be evident. Often they’re found in groups but also singly, riding the thermals looking for carrion to scavenge. Fetched over Rt 103 in Eliot Maine.


Turkey Vulture 3/16/12

Cool gray damp days without any sun keeps vultures from soaring on thermals, but they move north quickly with warm airs and winds. Turkey Vultures are found from southern Canada, across most all of the US and all the way south to Tierra del Fuego. They aren’t related to old world vultures but have similar appearance and scavenging habits. In some areas of the US they’re called “Buzzards,” but in English-speaking Central America and the Caribbean, they’re known as “John Crow.” In New England they are one of our earliest spring migrants, pushing North as soon as temps allow. I fetched this one along Rt 4 in South Berwick, ME.


Turkey Vulture 3/22/11

So what do you do if you’re a Turkey Vulture on a cold, cloudy day in southern Maine besides pray for sun and a rising thermal? This one of nine I found grounded in a field off of Rt 4 in Berwick, contemplating an egg-like golfball with a doleful look. I kept hoping to see it attack or otherwise try to open it, but perhaps it had already given up on that before I came along. Nevertheless it held the curious scavenger’s attention for some time. TVs are one of our earliest spring arrivals and have already pushed their way through into much of the state.


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