Monday, May 31, 2010

Turkey Vulture

Turkey VultureTurkey Vulture, Newport, Oregon on 12 September 2008 by Greg Gillson.

 

The Turkey Vulture is familiar to all as it rocks unsteadily over the summer landscape of North America searching for carrion.

These birds have two-toned black wings and the head is bald. Adults have red head skin, while the skin on the head of younger birds is black. They really do look rather like turkeys when on the ground.

Some vultures winter in the southern parts of the Pacific Northwest, though most depart in September and October. They arrive again from February to April.

As common as these birds are, it is quite hard to actually find a nest. Eggs are laid on the bare floor of caves or hollow logs or in similar situations.

So how did the term "buzzard" come to be applied to the Turkey Vulture? Buzzard is the European term for the Buteos, the soaring raptors such as our Red-tailed Hawk. Early European settlers of the New World called all the unfamiliar soaring raptors buzzards, including the Black and Turkey vultures. With the passage of time the name buzzard stuck to the vulture but, incomprehensibly, not to the Buteo hawks in North America.

13 comments:

  1. Interesting, I didn't know that's where the term buzzard came from. Great photo.

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  2. Great image, I took some similar today as one flew overhead. They are great birds, I do not care what some think, they are really cool chaps~

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  3. I live in Sequim, WA. and yesterday, I think we saw 2 of these birds in our yard. Strange looking; didn't know what they were, so maybe....

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  4. I saw two in Ashford, on Forest Road 52. They are big birds and make a crow-like noise, I think.

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  5. To Anonymous in Ashford,

    Vultures may hiss at close range when disturbed, but don't have any other vocalizations. Thus, perhaps your birds were Common Ravens, which are larger than crows and make rough croaking crow-like calls.

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  6. I live in the hills above Newberg Or.. last year we had 6 , this year so far from Aril 2nd we have 4. The fly close to the house all the time. I watch them with my spotting scopes and caught some odd behavior of them landing on an old log on the hill. I first thought they were eating on something,, but now I think I am seeing them nest. Very cool!

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    1. That is cool! In 40 years of birding I've never seen a nest of this species. Very strange considering how abundant they are.

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  7. We often have a pair circling over our home and forest land in Montesano, WA. My biggest fear of them happened last Saturday, I even mentioned it to my husband recently. I was sitting on my deck putting my shoes on and it happened...I got splattered...looked up and there they were. Yuck! Yep, it's white, just like other birds. I always assumed it was the same pair until we saw 8 taking turns on an unfortunate fawn. Thanks for clarifying buzzard vs vulture as I wasn't sure of the correct term, sounds like either works.

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  8. I've lived in the out skirts of Monroe, Wa. for over 50 yrs and saw 4 of them by my house for the very first time ....Very interesting bird

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    1. Now you'll probably start seeing them all the time!

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  9. I live outside of hoquiam washington on the bay and we put out left over meat for them. Everyday between 3 and 5 pm we have as many as six show up and feast. Truly awesome to watch from my couch :)

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  10. I just saw about 30 of these birds gliding south over the hood canal in the Seabeck area. Awesome to see! Do they migrate?

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    1. As you have seen they form some rather impressive migratory groups in the fall. Some very few individuals winter in the Pacific NW, but most start arriving in March and head south in October. Migration is quite protracted, though, with a few birds regular in winter in the Central Valley of California, though the vast majority winter in Mexico.

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