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Vultures

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  • Judy Hoy
    Hi All, I really liked the photo of the Turkey Vultures perched on the posts, sunning themselves. I have observed this wing outstretched sunning behavior for
    Message 1 of 2 , Sep 4, 2006
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      Hi All,

      I really liked the photo of the Turkey Vultures perched on the posts,
      sunning themselves. I have observed this wing outstretched sunning
      behavior for many years, when Turkey Vultures came to eat the left
      overs from animals that I butchered to feed the birds of prey and other
      animals in my care. I was never able to get a good photo. I also have
      had a flightless (because of a damaged wing) Turkey Vulture for 16
      years that has worked hard as an education bird. I call it Black
      Beauty, and although I do not know what sex it is, I refer to it as he.
      Black Beauty opens his wings with his back to the sun every morning. He
      never gets his feathers dirty while eating, because I give him chunks
      of meat to eat or dead mice, rats or hamsters. If he is in a room,
      where he can not get sun for a while, he will spread his wings to the
      sun as soon as he is put back out in the sunlight, and remain with his
      wings outstretched for a long time. I have always assumed that since he
      does this every morning, it helps him to warm up. However, since he
      does it for so long after being out of the direct sun for several days,
      I have assumed that Turkey Vultures may have to do this to acquire
      enough vitamin D to process the calcium in their diet. Except for the
      bacteria hypothesis mentioned on MOB, I have not seen this discussed.

      Another thing Black Beauty taught me about Turkey Vultures is that they
      can grow dinosaur-like hairy feathers in the red skin of their normally
      bare heads, if they are kept for several years in a climate where the
      temperature is below freezing much of the winter. I leave Black Beauty
      outside in his large pen unless the temperature at night gets below 20
      degrees. If it is going to be in the teens, I put him in a room where
      it does not freeze during the night, or leave him in the room for
      several days, if the temperature remains low both day and night. (When
      I put him back out, he suns for a long time.) After three or four years
      of living in Montana in the winter, Black Beauty grew hairy feathers
      all over his head. His head looks black in winter now and since he does
      not have to stick it into dead animals to eat, most of the hairy
      feathers now remain all year. Until I got Black Beauty, I did not know
      that Turkey Vultures had feather follicles in the bare skin of their
      heads. Has anyone heard of or observed other Turkey Vultures with hairy
      feathers on their heads?

      Another thing that some may not know about Turkey Vultures is that is
      if a predator like a fox, coyote, badger, etc. approaches them when
      they are on the ground with a full crop of food, the vulture will
      upchuck part of the food to distract the predator while the vulture
      makes its getaway. Upchucking part of their food also makes them
      lighter, so they can take off more easily.

      Good birding,
      Judy Hoy
      Bitterroot Wildlife Rehabilitation Center
      Stevensville, MT 59870 USA
    • Beth Hill
      I talked to an older gentleman yesterday while out walking along the river. I ve talked to him before - he gets out to walk and looks at the birds to make it
      Message 2 of 2 , Jan 28, 2013
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        I talked to an older gentleman yesterday while out walking along the river. I've talked to him before - he gets out to walk and looks at the birds to make it more interesting.  He told me he saw a pair of vultures eating a carcass on the ice Wednesday.  A couple of magpies were making dashes for tidbits.  He looked at them with binoculars and told me they "weren't bald or golden eagles.  They had bald heads."  It would have been on the ice near the Central Ave bridge and Mitchell Pool.  
        Just reporting a first hand report - definitely a scavenger having a meal.  Seems a bit early and cold for vultures, but I know they've been seen further and further north in recent years.
        Beth Hill
        Great Falls
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