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Turkey vultures are wonderful, awesome birds

Turkey vulture getting ready to feed on a dead squirrel in the middle of the road. Photo by Judy Edlund, Concord, CA
1turkey vulture judy edlund concord

Gary:
I’ve had 4 interesting encounters with these wonderful and awesome birds (turkey vultures).

First at the intersection of Leland & Railroad in Pittsburg, CA. On the NE corner is a mortuary and on the NW corner there is a row of large, mature eucalyptus trees. On one trip as I sat at the stop lights there were about 10 of them sitting on the peak of the roof of the mortuary and another 20 or so in the eucalyptus trees and this was in the late morning.

Second time was on the roof of Hillcrest Congregational  Church on Gregory Lane in Pleasant Hill, CA. One sat on the peak of the roof, one set on the top of the cross and one each sat on each arm of the cross.

The third time was on a street in Brentwood, just east the HWY 4 bypass and south of Lone Tree Way between a new housing development and a field. About 6 were cleaning up a skunk.
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Posted on Wednesday, July 11th, 2012
Under: Turkey vultures | 3 Comments »

Turkey vultures take a sun bath every morning.

Turkey vultures taking their morning sun bath. Photo by Dave Harper, Oakley, CA
1vultures2 dave harper oakley

Dear readers:
Here are some more GREAT photos by Dave Harper of Oakley, California. Turkey vultures regularly sun themselves when the sun first rises every morning. They spread their wings, which allows ultraviolet rays from the sun to kill bacteria the vultures may have picked up the day before while feeding on dead animals.

Turkey vultures also spray their feet with a mixture or feces and urine when they defecate. That’s why vulture legs and feet are white. Vulture urine is very acidic, which also kills  bacteria picked up by the vultures while handling and feeding on carrion.

Mother Nature takes pretty good care of her animals, don’t you think?

Thanks for the photos, Dave! /Gary

Turkey vultures taking their morning sun bath. Photo by Dave Harper, Oakley, CA
1vultures dave harper oakley

Posted on Monday, January 30th, 2012
Under: Turkey vultures | 1 Comment »

Turkey vultures and hawks enjoy the skies together

Turkey vulture (l.) and red-tailed hawk (r.) flying together. Photo by Greg Merritt, Vallejo, CA
1hawk vulture greg merritt vallejo

Gary:
I had to write to you to ask a question: Just thought it was curious and a little bizarre to see our red-tailed hawks soaring in formation with our local turkey vultures, with all of them getting along just fine!

In this picture I’m including above, it’s a red-tail soaring along with a vulture. I have several pictures of them soaring along together, and they were not fighting at all. If anything, they seemed to be enjoying the day, and each others company. It was quite weird.

I have several others with 5 or 6 vultures and a red-tail and a peregrine all flying in formation … and trust me, it’s the oddest thing ever … they obviously enjoy each other’s company …  I think it’s just a little bit odd. (Alfred Hitchcock would be proud!) Is this common behavior?
Greg Merritt,Vallejo, California

Greg:
Yes, hawks and vultures will often cruise around the skies together. They don’t compete with each other, or prey on each other. We probably see them flying around together a lot more often than we realize, since they can look so much alike when they are up there circling above us. /Gary

Posted on Wednesday, January 4th, 2012
Under: Hawks, Turkey vultures | No Comments »

Is this a turkey vulture, or a California condor?

Immature turkey vulture taking a sun bath. Photo by Frances Rice.
1turkey vulture frances rice

Gary:
While vacationing at a hotel near Marina Dunes State Park near Monterey, CA,  on Dec. 12, 2011, my husband and I noticed two turkey vultures on the top of sand dunes sunning themselves. A few minutes later another vulture-like bird landed on the sand dunes near the other vultures.

We immediately noticed that the newly arrived bird was not only larger than the two turkey vultures, it also had different coloring around its neck and head. Luckily, we had our cameras ready and started taking photos. The newly arrived bird opened its wings to sun itself as the turkey vultures were doing. It’s wing span was much larger than the size of the turkey vulture’s wing span.

We have researched on the Internet and in bird guides trying to determine what kind of a vulture this is. I’m wondering if it’s a juvenile California condor. I’m emailing a photo to you. Is this a condor? If so, what is their range now?
Frances Rice in cyberspace

Frances:
The bird in your photo is an immature turkey vulture. That’s why the head is black, not red. California condors are actually MUCH bigger. All California condors also wear large wing bands with special identifying numbers which can be seen easily from above and below. This helps researchers to keep track of them. Best place to see a condor in California is in the Big Sur area. Here’s an Internet file that tells you the best spots to view these enormous birds: http://gocalifornia.about.com/od/cabigsurmenu/a/condor-watch.htm.

You can get a good look at some condor photos here so you can see what they look like: http://www.google.com/search?q=california+condor+photos&hl=en&client=firefox-a&hs=C6m&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&channel=s&prmd=imvns&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ei=tCQDT5qRDaLdiAKr6LGHDQ&ved=0CDcQsAQ&biw=1024&bih=578

Hope this helps! /Gary

Posted on Tuesday, January 3rd, 2012
Under: California condors, Turkey vultures | No Comments »

How to invite a turkey vulture to lunch

Turkey vulture peeking through skylight to see what’s for lunch. Photo by Nancy Hartounian, Lafayette, CA
1tvulture nancy hartounian laf

Gary:
I was preparing lunch and heard a noise on the skylight above me. Guess this turkey vulture wanted to join me for lunch!
Nancy Hartounian, Lafayette, California

Nancy:
I have to ask this … what were you fixing for lunch? /Gary

Gary:
I was fixing Carcass Casserole and Roadkill Ratatouille.
Nancy Hartounian, Lafayette, California

Nancy:
I figured it had to be something like that. I have a box of Roadkill Helper sitting on my desk that somebody sent me, if you need any. It says on the side that you just add roadkill. /Gary

Posted on Thursday, November 3rd, 2011
Under: Turkey vultures | 2 Comments »

Turkey vultures spreading their wings on a new day

A turkey vulture takes off while another stands on a limb and spreads its wings in the morning sunlight. Photo by Dave Harper, Oakley, CA
1turkey vultures dave harper oakley

How turkey vultures survive in the wild

Turkey vultures pick up a lot of bacteria on their feathers while feeding on dead carcasses of animals. One way they deal with this is to spread their wings in the morning sun so the ultraviolet radiation can kill some of that bacteria.

When vultures urinate, the acidic urine sprays down on their legs and feet (turning them white), killing bacteria the birds pick up while standing on dead carcasses.

Mother Nature — What a clever lady. /Gary

Posted on Tuesday, October 18th, 2011
Under: Turkey vultures | No Comments »

Turkey vulture: Up close and personal!

Turkey vulture in flight. Photo by Tom Nichols, Fairfield, CA
1turkey vulture tom nichols fairfield

Gary:
My house backs up to a hill and open space.  I have seen red-tailed hawks hunting and the vultures flying around.  They are so beautiful in flight and where I live it is very windy so they can soar, especially the turkey vultures.

I decided to go up the hill and put a few small pieces of meat on a post and see who responds to it.  It turned out the turkey vulture did and ate the meat.  This was from quite a distance and I wanted to get closer and photograph the bird.  The post was two-thirds the way up the hill.  I took meat and went on top of the hill, out of sight of houses and people using the jogging path behind my house.  I put several pieces of meat on the ground and backed off, standing 20 feet away.  This one turkey vulture was very cautious and circled, landed by the meat and ate it while I snapped photos.
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Posted on Friday, September 2nd, 2011
Under: Turkey vultures | 3 Comments »

Turkey vultures waiting for me to go through a gate

Turkey vultures waiting at the gate. Photo by Mari James.
2vulture mari james

Gary:
Saw these guys while out hiking at Black Diamond Mines.  All day I was hoping to get a good photo of the hawks and bald eagle I had seen flying overhead.  I came around the corner near the end of my hike at the top of Manhattan Canyon and there these 3 were waiting on the gate for me.
Mari James, Contra Costa County, California (S.F. Bay Area)

Mari:
Humm. If I found three turkey vultures perched on a gate, waiting for me to go through that gate … I’d give some very careful thought about whether I REALLY wanted to go through that gate … or not. /Gary

Posted on Wednesday, May 25th, 2011
Under: Turkey vultures | 1 Comment »

Look! Up in the sky! Is that a vulture, an eagle, a condor … or?

Golden eagle by David Harper, Oakley, CA
golden eagle david harper oakley

Ever looked up and wondered what kind of large bird was circling around in the sky above you?

Here are some photographs of birds of prey that you might commonly see up there. Well, except for the California condor. I just threw that one in because I’m always getting e-mails from people who say they saw a condor flying around somewhere over the San Francisco Bay Area. I’ve yet to ever see one or have a local sighting verified. Maybe someday if the condor recovery efforts keep improving. Meanwhile, here’s what a condor really looks like. Note, all have ID numbers on their wings. Enjoy. /Gary
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Posted on Tuesday, March 1st, 2011
Under: Condors, Golden eagles, Ospreys, Red-tailed hawk, Turkey vultures, White-tailed kite | 1 Comment »

Turkey Vultures: Mother Nature’s scavengers

Photo by Debbie Ojeda, Pinole, CA
vulture debbie ojeda

Debbie Ojeda of Pinole, CA, took this photograph of a turkey vulture feeding on a dead opossum on Henry Drive in Pinole.

I’m always on the lookout for interesting color photos of wild creatures doing their thing. You can e-mail me your photos in .JPG format to gbogue@bayareanewsgroup.com. Please include your full name and the city where you live so I can give you credit for taking the photo if I use it. Also please include comments in your e-mail saying it’s OK for me to use your photo(s) in my blog.

Thanks! /Gary

Posted on Thursday, January 14th, 2010
Under: Opossums, Turkey vultures | No Comments »