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Posts Tagged ‘Coragyps atratus’

Two Black Vultures (Coragyps atratus) appeared to be intently staring at me as I drew closer to them on Tuesday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Were they sizing me up, hoping I might drop dead on the spot? As Halloween approaches, it is easy to feel a little creeped out in situations like this. Although I believe that they were simply curious about my presence, I did make sure that I moved around enough to ensure that the vultures knew that I was still alive.

Black Vulture

Black Vulture

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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What kind of bird would be a perfect match for a gloomy, fog-filled day? I might suggest that this Black Vulture (Coragyps atratus) that I spotted this past weekend at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge would fit the bill admirably.

There was something shadowy, mysterious, and a little creepy about this large dark bird as it perched low in a tree and looked right at me through the fog. I felt a little shiver as I looked up at the vulture, but maybe it was just reaction to the cool temperature.

Black Vulture

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Peering through the vegetation at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge this past Monday, I spotted several large birds at the edge of the water. I thought they might be eagles or ospreys, but they turned out to be Black Vultures (Coragyps atratus) that appeared to be foraging as the tide was going out.

Black Vulture

Black Vulture

Black Vulture

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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As I rounded the corner of one of the remote trails yesterday at Huntley Meadows Park, I stopped abruptly—a large black bird was perched low in a tree almost directly in front of me. At first I thought it might be a wild turkey, but it turned out to be a Black Vulture (Coragyps atratus).

Most of the vultures that I see are Turkey Vultures, which have red heads, and generally I see them soaring high in the sky. When this vulture became aware of my presence, it flew to a nearby tree and looked down at me. I tried not to feel paranoid, but it looked almost like it was going to dive bomb me. The vulture perched in one more tree before finally flying away.Black Vulture

Black Vulture

Black Vulture

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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My eyes are unavoidably drawn to large birds in the sky. For me, it doesn’t really matter if it is a hawk, an osprey, or an eagle or, in this case, “only” a Black Vulture (Coragyps atratus) that I saw last week at Huntley Meadows Park. They are all impressive birds.

This bird was one of four Black Vultures that were circling overhead as I wandered through a remote area of my favorite marshland park. I love to watch these vultures as they soar through the sky searching for the scent of something dead to eat.

Where I live, we have both Black Vultures and Turkey Vultures. Most of the time, they are easy to tell apart, because the white patterns on the wings are different and their heads have different colors. As you can see in the photos, the Black Vulture has a black head, whereas the Turkey Vulture has a red head.

When vultures are circling around me like this, I follow the advice that was given to me several years ago and make sure I move from time to time. I wouldn’t want one of the vultures to think that I was dead.

Black Vulture

Black Vulture

Black Vulture

Black Vulture

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I know that vultures don’t really stalk live prey, but when this Black Vulture leaned forward from its perch on a dead tree, it sure looked like it was following something on the ground.

Most of the vultures that I see at my local marsh are Turkey Vultures, which have a distinctive red head, but occasionally I will also spot Black Vultures (Coragyps atratus) like this one. I was in a remote area of the park searching for dragonflies when this vulture flew in my general direction and decided to perch for a while high on a nearby tree.

Initially the bird spent some time grooming itself, but then it assumed the pose that you see in this image. I tried to move closer to get a better shot and eventually I was almost underneath the tree. As I looked at my images on the computer, I initially thought that I might have photographed an immature Turkey Vulture, which also has a dark head, but I’m pretty sure this is a Black Vulture, because of its short tail.

When I was doing a little research on the Cornell Lab of Ornithology website, one of my favorite resources for birds, I learned that Black Vultures often hang out with Turkey Vultures to compensate for their weaker sense of smell. “To find food they soar high in the sky and keep an eye on the lower-soaring Turkey Vultures. When a Turkey Vulture’s nose detects the delicious aroma of decaying flesh and descends on a carcass, the Black Vulture follows close behind.”

In addition to its pose, I was struck by the dead-looking eyes of this vulture, which I can’t help but find a little creepy. I am not really paranoid, but somehow I am happy that it had not fixed those eyes on me.

Black Vulture

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I was really struck by the unusual poses of these Black Vultures (Coragyps atratus) that I encountered while walking along the canal path in Augusta, GA. The only other time that I saw Black Vultures in a tree, they were roosting and looked large and menacing.

These two vultures look like they have adopted a hawk’s approach to hunting by perching on a tree and waiting,  rather than by circling endlessly in the skies as other vultures do.

Vultures_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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The Black Vulture (Coragyps atratus) needs to improve its public image and what could be better in these times of economic difficulty than emphasizing its energy efficiency?  The Cornell Lab of Ornithology states that the Black Vulture “soars on thermals to gain altitude and to cover large distances with little energy expenditure.”

This past weekend we had warm weather and a breeze, which made it perfect for soaring. Normally I see Black Vultures very high in the sky and in groups, but this time I spotted a solitary vulture soaring at a a lower altitude, which permitted me to get some decent photos. The Cornell Lab notes that Black Vultures have a less well-developed sense of smell than Turkey Vultures and rely more on sight than smell to find carrion, which may be why they soar at greater heights than Turkey Vultures.

I propose that the Black Vulture become the new symbol for energy-saving practices. What do you think?

vulture1_blogvulture2_blogvulture3_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Earlier today I posted a photo of a colorful cardinal to counteract the gloominess of the day. Here is an alternative if you prefer instead to relish the grayness of the day—an image of a Black Vulture (Coragyps atratus ) roosting in a dead tree.

vulture3_blog

It was a damp, cold day today as I was walking through the marshland. I happened to look up and saw a couple of large birds perched in a dead tree. At first I thought they might be wild turkeys, but when I looked at them more carefully I realized that they were Black Vultures. Previously I had seen them soaring through the air and thought they were quite beautiful, with magnificent wingspans. When you see them up close, however, “beautiful” is not an adjective that springs to mind. To be generous, you might say that they look “distinctive” or “interesting.”

vulture1_blog

Why were they hanging around? I had no idea until I talked with some folks at the information desk in the visitor center. Apparently there is a dead deer in a nearby area and the vultures have been feeding on its carcass. I guess the vultures were resting in the trees in between meals.

vulture2_blogI processed each of these images a little differently, trying to compensate for the fact that there was not that much light,  which forced me to deliberately underexpose the photos. I think I like the first one best, the one that I desaturated almost to the point of making it black and white, although I like some aspects of the other two images as well.

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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As the cool morning air was warmed by the sun last Monday, I caught sight of a group of seven large birds soaring together through the air. I could tell that they were different from the turkey vultures that I had previously photographed, but I wasn’t sure what they were. A friendly birder identified them for me as Black Vultures (Coragyps atratus).

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology website, one of my favorite places to go to learn more about birds, notes that the Black Vulture have a less developed sense of smell than Turkey Vultures, and have to rely on their sight, which is why they may soar at greater heights than the Turkey Vultures. More social than the Turkey Vultures, Black Vultures often travel in flocks and may share a common roost before they go off to forage. (I saw a whole group of them in a single tree earlier in the morning that I took these shots).

I am still in awe of these large birds with impressive wing spans. At the marshland park where I do a lot of my photography, there are a number of species of hawks, and I hope to be able to get some photos of them eventually.

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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