THE TURKEY VULTURE.
This bird is found mostly in the southern states. Here he is known by the more common name of Turkey Buzzard.
He looks like a noble bird but he isn’t. While he is well fitted for flying, and might, if he tried, catch his prey, he prefers to eat dead animals.
The people down south never think of burying a dead horse or cow. They just drag it out away from their homes and leave it to the Vultures who are sure to dispose of it.
It is very seldom that they attack a live animal.
They will even visit the streets of the cities in search of dead animals for food, and do not show much fear of man. Oftentimes they are found among the chickens and ducks in the barn-yard, but have never been known to kill any.
One gentleman who has studied the habits of the Vulture says that it has been known to suck the eggs of Herons. This is not common, though. As I said they prefer dead animals for their food and even eat their own dead.
The Vulture is very graceful while on the wing. He sails along and you can hardly see his wings move as he circles about looking for food on the ground below.
Many people think the Vulture looks much like our tame turkey.
If you know of a turkey near by, just compare this picture with it and you won’t think so.
See how chalk-white his bill is. No feathers on his head, but a bright red skin.
What do you think of the young chick? It doesn’t seem as though he could ever be the large, heavy bird his parent seems to be.
Now turn back to the first page of July “Birds” and see how he differs from the Eagle.
THE TURKEY VULTURE.
URKEY BUZZARD is the familiar name applied to this bird, on account of his remarkable resemblance to our common Turkey. This is the only respect however, in which they are alike. It inhabits the United States and British Provinces from the Atlantic to the Pacific, south through Central and most of South America. Every farmer knows it to be an industrious scavenger, devouring at all times the putrid or decomposing flesh of carcasses. They are found in flocks, not only flying and feeding in company, but resorting to the same spot to roost; nesting also in communities; depositing their eggs on the ground, on rocks, or in hollow logs and stumps, usually in thick woods or in a sycamore grove, in the bend or fork of a stream. The nest is frequently built in a tree, or in the cavity of a sycamore stump, though a favorite place for depositing the eggs is a little depression under a small bush or overhanging rock on a steep hillside.
Renowned naturalists have long argued that the Vulture does not have an extraordinary power of smell, but, according to Mr. Davie, an excellent authority, it has been proven by the most satisfactory experiments that the Turkey Buzzard does possess a keen sense of smell by which it can distinguish the odor of flesh at a great distance.
The flight of the Turkey Vulture is truly beautiful, and no landscape with its patches of green woods and grassy fields, is perfect without its dignified figure high in the air, moving round in circles, steady, graceful and easy, and apparently without effort. “It sails,” says Dr. Brewer, “with a steady, even motion, with wings just above the horizontal position, with their tips slightly raised, rises from the ground with a single bound, gives a few flaps of the wings, and then proceeds with its peculiar soaring flight, rising very high in the air.”
The Vulture pictured in the accompanying plate was obtained between the Brazos river and Matagorda bay. With it was found the Black Vulture, both nesting upon the ground. As the nearest trees were thirty or forty miles distant these Vultures were always found in this situation. The birds selected an open spot beneath a heavy growth of bushes, placing the eggs upon the bare ground. The old bird when approached would not attempt to leave the nest, and in the case of the young bird in the plate, the female to protect it from harm, promptly disgorged the putrid contents of her stomach, which was so offensive that the intruder had to close his nostrils with one hand while he reached for the young bird with the other.
The Turkey Vulture is a very silent bird, only uttering a hiss of defiance or warning to its neighbors when feeding, or a low gutteral croak of alarm when flying low overhead.
The services of the Vultures as scavengers in removing offal render them valuable, and almost a necessity in southern cities. If an animal is killed and left exposed to view, the bird is sure to find out the spot in a very short time, and to make its appearance as if called by some magic spell from the empty air.
“Never stoops the soaring Vulture
On his quarry in the desert,
On the sick or wounded bison,
But another Vulture, watching,
From his high aerial lookout,
Sees the downward plunge and follows;
And a third pursues the second,
Coming from the invisible ether,
First a speck, and then a Vulture,
Till the air is dark with pinions.”
TURKEY VULTURE.—Catharista Atrata.
Range—Temperate America, from New Jersey southward to Patagonia.
Nest—In hollow stump or log, or on ground beneath bushes or palmettos.
Eggs—One to three; dull white, spotted and blotched with chocolate marking.
There is a path which no fowl knoweth, and which the vulture’s eye hath not seen: (Job 28:7 KJV)
We see Turkey and Black Vulture quite frequently here. I only disagree with one part of the article. “The Vulture is very graceful while on the wing. He sails along and you can hardly see his wings move as he circles about looking for food on the ground below.”
The way I distinguish the Turkey and Black Vultures apart is that the Black (BV) is steady on the wing, but the Turkey TV) is wobbly on the wing. They have a rocking motion, even when it is not windy. Another way to tell the two apart is the V of the Turkey and the flatter wings of the Black, who also has white on the tips of their wings.
They belong to the Cathartidae – New World Vultures Family. There are 7 Vultures and 2 Condors in that family.
The above article is an article in the monthly serial for May 1897 “designed to promote Knowledge of Bird-Live.” These include Color Photography, as they call them, today they are drawings. There are at least three Volumes that have been digitized by Project Gutenberg.
To see the whole series of – Birds Illustrated by Color Photography – Revisited
(Information from Wikipedia and other internet sources)
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Turkey Vulture – Wikipedia