Tuesday, March 1, 2011

American Black Vultures

I always love seeing vultures. They are so big and commanding, and they have such interesting faces too. In Cincinnati I see a lot more Turkey Vultures than Black Vultures (we are at the northern-most reaches of the Black Vulture's range), but I do get to see them every now and then. A year or so ago I saw 37 of them at Caesar's Creek Lake mixed into a flock of the larger red-faced Turkey Vultures. What a spectacular sight! The big black birds had congregated on the other side of a small lagoon casting an ominous gloom across the waters. Totally enthralled, Matty and I sat down to watch. Several of the vultures (both Black and Turkey) walked the shoreline picking through decaying fish, while the rest perched darkly in dead trees at the water's edge. Unfortunately they were too far away for decent photos, so I was very happy when I stumbled across this big guy sitting in a pine tree on Pinckney Island NWR, South Carolina. He was alone and eyed me in a bored manner...only moving once to shift his position.

These are not the best photos, but you can see a glimpse of the Black Vulture's cool featherless head.

This is the first time I'd ever seen a Black Vulture up close. I was surprised at how much smaller the Black Vulture seemed compared to a Turkey Vulture.

I was hoping to find Wood Storks perched up in these trees, because the summer before I found about 10 of them in the area. If I had not been looking for the Wood Storks I would not have seen this guy. He was that still and quiet. I watched all week, but no Wood Storks showed up. At least this Black Vulture did!

...ahhhh...there it is--that classic vulture silhouette!

25 comments:

rebeccainthewoods said...

I love these guys! Both vulture species are common where I live now (as are storks). Kids are always amazed and grossed out when I explain that vulture's bald heads are an adaptation for sticking their heads into rotting carcasses.

Lois Evensen said...

He doesn't look friendly to me probably because I have been influenced by scary movies. :\ So cool to find one to photograph, though! Super images!

Roy said...

Hmmmm... I still haven't managed to get close enough for a portrait like that. I've gotten some good shots of Turkey Vultures in flight overhead, though. Good shots.

I had to laugh at a TV episode seen recently; it may have been NCIS or CSI. A dead body was found and it was being hacked at by Vultures. One of the detectives (or was it the ME?) kept commenting on the presence of "Turkey Buzzards" (and the next person I hear calling a Vulture a Buzzard is gonna get a Gibbs-smack on the back of the head!), but what they really were were American Black Vultures. You'd think that as much as the writers for these things get paid they could at least do some rudimentary research. Sheesh!

Laure Ferlita said...

Love to see them flying, but I can't say they do much for me when they're up close and personal!

Betsy from Tennessee said...

Beautiful picture (silhouette) of the black vulture, Kelly... We have lots of Turkey Vultures in our area. Don't think I've seen a Black vulture before. NEAT.
Hugs,
Betsy

Kjell T. Evensen said...

Great images. I have to admit I have only seen these bird in movies.

Montanagirl said...

Terrific captures, Kelly! I'd love to get that close to one of those guys.

grammie g said...

Hi Kelly ...I must say the Black Vulture is a better looking fellow than the Turkey Vulture!! lol
We have Turkey Vulture here and I love to watch them circle an area in search of food!!
He was quite obliging to have his photo taken..and very nice photos they are !!

Bill S. said...

Great captures. Kind of funny how we run on to great sights. This teachs us to move slowly and be observant no matter what we are looking for.

Janice K said...

That was neat to see one up close like that. We have a lot of turkey vultures up here; however not all of them appear to have red heads, so maybe we have some black vultures also. I need to check them out more closely this year.

Marie said...

You're lucky he didn't urinate on you--or worse. I came across a young turkey vulture once that seemed to be stuck somehow in the V of a tree. It was flailing around and looked like it was unable to move from this spot about 10 feet off the ground. I have no idea what I planned to do, but as I approached it shot a stream of fetid urine at me. Needless to say I left it alone. By the following morning it was gone.

Wanda..... said...

I always think of them as ugly scary birds that are beautiful from afar, when soaring overhead, but your photos, Kelly...make me see their attractiveness...even if it's of a DARK nature! :)

Roy said...

Great images Kelly, that is definitely another ugly bird.{:)

Jeremy Pearse said...

Wonderful photos - I feel that vultures are much maligned, but I love them - looks like you do too!

holdingmoments said...

A great encounter Kelly, and great pictures too.

Warren Baker said...

Magnificent bird! Master of the skies :-)

Elaine said...

It's amazing what you find when you are expecting something else. You've just got to keep your eyes and mind open. Good work!

Hilke Breder said...

Kelly, I think you got some great images. It shows the typical features of the BV, the naked wrinkled neck and head, those broad shoulders and the dark color. We are always excited to see them in our area; they just started expanding this far; must be the climate change.

Kelly said...

Rebecca...I love them too...Mother Nature always knows what she's doing, doesn't she! :-)

Lois...he was very friendly....actually, he seemed more bored. He just watched me and dozed... We are trained to fear them through TV...

Roy...haha! Great!! You would think they would do a bit of research. The one I love is when you see an American Bald Eagle soaring overhead and they play the call of a Red-tailed Hawk (or some other hawk..). I guess it sounds more "eagle-ish!"

Laure...haha! The more you look at them, the more you love them. They are so cool...

Betsy...I love the silhouette too. I'll have to get my book out and look to see if they are in your area. You might have a few in the mix and not even know it!

Kjell...I've seen them up at Caesar's Creek and at Clifty Falls too. Around my house, though, they are all Turkey Vultures (of which two hang out on the building at work!)

Thanks, Mona!

Grammie...the Black Vulture is a little more tidy looking isn't he? I love them both, though!

Thanks, Bill! I know what you mean. Some of my best finds are when I'm actively looking for something else!

Janice...you'll have to check them out to see if one are two are hiding in the mix!

Marie...I was careful around him because I had read about the urinating thing. Since he was so bored and non-chalant with me I assumed I wasn't bothering him. I wasn't directly under him either--thank goodness. I don't think I'd like that very much! :-)

Wanda....when you really look at them, you see they have very pretty eyes, and are unique... I like them now.

Roy...thanks...haha...beauty is in the eye of the beholder? :-)

Jeremy...thank you! I do love...Turkey and Black Vulture. Rick and I often head down to Clifty Falls to see them mass together in the autumn. That's a spectacular sight!!

Thanks, Keith!!

Warren...so true. Love to see them soaring. The Turkey Vultures seem to do more of the soaring and circling. I love to see them both flying.

So true, Elaine! Thanks!

Hilke....I've read that they have really started to expand their range northwards. I guess it's climate change too....thanks!

Andor Marton said...

You should go into Panatanal (the birdwatchers heaven), Brazil and you will see hundreds of them. I really like those guys, they are really impressive and have an angry way of look. Great shots.

Steve Borichevsky said...

I used to see these in Tennessee quite a bit. They would seem to be less skittish of people.

Guy said...

Hi Kelly

I love your photos of the vulture. They are really wonderful. They make me think of David Bottoms poem Under the Vulture Tree.
With your permission I would like to add you to my links.

Thanks for such a great blog.

Guy

yen said...

lovely and indeed a big bird. stay long on the perch ?

yen said...

lovely and indeed a big bird. stay long on the perch ?

Kelly said...

Andor...I'd love to go to Brazil some day!

Steve...I saw them in Tenn too!

Guy...thank you! I need to reread that poem! Thanks for reminding me. thanks!

Yen...he did! but...the lighting was so bad he was more of silhouette.