SMBO 2015 – 36

Welcome Stalkers, to the thirty-sixth edition of Stalking Mike Blair Outdoors. Well, we just passed Labor Day and are only two weeks from the official beginning of fall. However, it seems that pumpkins have already invaded nearly every market there is, HA! What are you doing to relish the last few days of summer? Last lake trip? Anyone hiking? Let us know!buzzard 6

These creatures often unnerve people and are seen as a “creepy harbinger of death.” They’re just scavengers, providing a natural clean-up for nature. Actually in some cultures they are seen as sacred for their cleanup role. Some people practice “sky burials” and regard these creatures as precious animals that release the soul from the body. However, locally here in the United States they have adopted the name “Buzzards.” Their actual name is the Turkey Vulture.

The Turkey Vulture is the most widespread vulture in North America. Named because, when standing on the ground and viewed at a distance they can somewhat resemble a turkey. This Turkey vulture 4large bird is black with brownish tones, especially along the edges of its feathers. It has an unfeathered, red head and pale bill. Turkey Vultures have long broad wings with “fingers” and long tails that extend past their toe tips when in flight.

This bird is unique among the vulture family because it finds carrion by smell as well as sight. It will cruise low to the ground to sniff out its food source or it can fly above the tree tops and smell carrion on the ground in the forest. When threatened it hisses and vomits powerful stomach acids. (Eck).

Buzzard 1Turkey Vultures can be found year-round in the Southern United States and migrate into Northern United States and Canada during breeding season. Buzzards don’t build full nests. They just scrape out a spot or use an acceptable nest site such as a shallow cave, hollow log or thick vegetation. While they scavenge and feed near human populations they prefer to nest far away from civilization.

You can see these birds soaring high, riding the thermals. They have a characteristic teetering motion when they fly. Also, they hold their wings slightly raised when flying, when looking head-buzzard 8on it makes a slight “V” shape. They may soar individually or in small groups, but it is common for them to roost in large numbers. They will roost in trees, on rocks, or other high spots. Turkey Vultures can be found in open areas, such as roadsides, suburbs, farm fields, countryside and around food sources.

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An interesting fact: at carcasses, several buzzards may gather but only one feeds at a time. It will chase the other off and make them wait. If this bird makes you feel uncomfortable, just remember that there are several species of animals that are scavengers. Despite their size, Turkey Vultures are often driven off by smaller Black Vultures, Crested Caracaras, Zone-tailed Hawks and other species. AND Turkey Vultures almost never attack live prey, they simply clean up.

Blair has an interesting video on buzzards you can view here: Buzzards.

Be sure to check out the Turkey Vulture Photo Gallery!