Archive for September 17th, 2012


Not far from our house, there is an old, rusting, retired bridge. When I drove by on the new bridge this Sunday, I was surprised to see that several dozen Turkey Vultures (Cathartes aura) were assembled there. Some were on the ground under the bridge, and a few were gliding above in the clear blue sky and there were even Turkey Vultures seated on fence posts along the edge of the field.


But most of the big birds were seated along the railing of the bridge. It appeared to be a Sunday Sunbathing Party. With their broad wingspan, they were an impressive sight, even from a distance. Though they paused to look my way when I stopped the car and got out, they continued undisturbed while I snapped a few photos.


Turkey vultures are carrion eaters who locate their food by scent. According to Hughes (Birds of Ontario by Janice M. Hughes, ROM and McClelland & Stewart 2001) natural gas companies have exploited their keen sense of smell by introducing an attractive (to vultures) odorant into pipelines and identifying leaks by monitoring the locations of vultures circling overhead!

Turkey Vultures are one of the few birds experiencing a rise in population numbers. Their success is attributed to the warming climate, increases in deer populations, forest clearing and more roads with higher traffic volumes providing more roadkills.


Why here? Why now? I wondered. It’s thought that vultures and other large birds sunbathe in the early morning to warm up after a cool night. It had been a cool night, but when I spotted them, it was nearly noon. They just seemed to be enjoying a pleasant get-together of the local vulture crowd, maybe having a last visit before migrating. Too anthropomorphic? Maybe, but it won’t be long before they will be heading south. I wish them a safe journey.


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