Friday, April 3, 2009

A Pennsylvania First

About 40 miles away from home last week, I was stopped at a traffic light near a gravel quarry. I like to scan the skies near quarries and see what's happening - birdwise.
Turkey vultures were soaring everywhere - as usual - but my eye lit on one in particular. Lo and behold - my first black vulture in Pennsylvania! I've seen them in North Carolina, Maryland and West Virginia, but not in my home state. Of course, I thought of Lynne right away. How jealous will she be that I was watching a dozen TVs and a BV right outside my car window?
I never understood the appeal of vultures, but they do look majestic - soaring and gliding effortlessly. Well, it got added to the PA list as soon as I got home. With no effort, just looking out a window, you never know what you will find. I guess one birder's "trash bird" is another birder's "treasure bird".
How to tell a black from a turkey vulture? The BVs have silver on wing tips only, while the TVs have silver extending from wingtip to the body. The BVs are smaller with stubbier tails. Seeing a BV flying with TVs made the size difference apparent. Up close, the BV has a black or grayish featherless head (ewwwww!), while the TV has a red featherless head (ewwwww!). Both eat carrion (the TVs exclusively, while the BVs are not as picky) and are necessary to keeping the natural order - acting as vacuum cleaners.

Black Vulture


Lynne said...

A dozen vultures?? I almost fell down the hill and wet my pants when I saw just the one last weekend! Lucky you...

BTW- I got my lifer Black Vulture at The Beanery in Cape May last October. (neener!)

Lynne said...

and what do you mean ewwwww?!

They have that beautiful skin, all wrinkly and red, and they have that pearly white beak...

Susan Gets Native said...

Wanna hear something horrible?
Well, tough. I'm telling you anyway.

As your readers may or may not know, BV's are much more aggressive than TV's.
A few weeks ago, I was out in Amish Country doing a program, and the wildlife officer told me that BLACK vultures have become a problem for some of the farmers, especially the dairy farmers. The black vultures are waiting until a cow drops a calf, then they swoop in, KILL the newborn calf and will peck out the eyes of the cow if she intervenes. They have had to resort to SHOOTING the BV's and hanging a few in trees upside-down to deter other BV's from roosting.

I told you it was horrible.

KatDoc said...

oh, no - Another Vulture post!! I can't avoid them, it seems. [grin]

Nice ID tips to distinguish the two species, beth. Only one caveat: TV's will also have a black head in their first year. If you look only at the heads, and ignore the wingtips and tails, you might mistake a young TV for a BV.

Welcome back to the blogosphere.


Beth said...

Lynne - honestly I see dozens of TVS every day. They are almost as ubiquitous here as starlings. But now I think of you every time I see one - so at least they bring me some joy! And yes, I do mean ewwwwwww.... :)

Susan - I knew I could count on you for a gross story!

Kathi - glad to be back in blog country.