Monday, May 23, 2005

Visit of the Vultures

Today we were visited by turkey vultures [Cathartes aura]. They are quite impressive and graceful at soaring. I had read some time back that vultures have a keen sense of smell, especially of decaying flesh. Yesterday I had found the decaying carcass of a starling under some tin sheets left from an old barn that had collapsed. I had uncovered the tin from the carcass so that it remained visible to the open air. To think that the vultures were able to smell this small carcass even when there is a reasonable breeze. Quite extraordinary I would say. As soon as they spotted me they left after some low level hovering.

I wonder if they ever located lefty’s carcass?

I have been an active birder back in the late 60’s and early 70’s and at that time the turkey vulture was unknown in these parts and yet now they are quite common here. In fact the older bird books that I have such as BIRDS OF NORTH AMERICA, by Robbins, Bruun, Zim and Singer [1966] (ISBN was not yet available at time of printing), clearly shows that this bird did not venture north of Lake Ontario in the east. A newer book entitled FIELD GUIDE TO BIRDS, EASTERN REGION by Donald and Lillian Stokes, [1996] ISBN 0-316-81809-7 shows the turkey vulture ranging this far north.

This phenomenon is also noticeable in other bird species. Hello to global warming.