It’s not unusual to see a Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura) drifting high overhead, its broad, 1.8 metre wide wings set in the distinctive ‘V’ that makes the bird so easy to identify. V is for Vulture. It’s less common to see them on the ground, but I recently spotted this individual resting on a fence post.
Turkey Vultures are a widespread species, with three subspecies ranging from Northern Ontario to Argentina. They haven’t been found in Ontario in large numbers until the last few decades. You are still most likely to view a Turkey Vulture in the south-west of the province, where the climate is a bit warmer. However, since the 1980s, the eastern Ontario population has more than doubled.
Turkey Vultures are almost exclusively scavengers and rarely kill live prey. It’s thought that one factor in their range expansion has been the relentless construction of new roads, which along with high volumes of speeding traffic, bring plentiful numbers of roadkill.
In rocky terrain, Turkey Vultures nest on cliff ledges or in crevices or caves. In more agricultural regions, they may use a hollow tree or an abandoned building. They prefer to nest in darkness, well hidden from predators and humans. The dark loft of an old, abandoned barn may thus provide good nesting habitat.
A migratory species, Turkey Vultures begin to move south in mid September, with the peak migration period running from the beginning to middle of October. Perhaps my fence sitter is resting up while contemplating the journey south.