Saturday, December 24, 2011

‘Look! Up in the sky! It’s a bird. . .’

Yes, it’s definitely a bird. Question is, is it a turkey vulture? It soared around in big circles when I walked today, though happily, not right over me – but what was it?

It’s much bigger than a crow, with different, hulking configuration. It's larger than a raven, which we’ve rarely seen. So, maybe a turkey vulture?

The Birds of New Jersey Field Guide* says they’re here. A conclave of . . . whatever they are seemed to be in session in a tree near the park a week ago. Whatever those large, dark forms were, they were menacing. Not at all like commuter-birds flying over.

With distinctive red heads and legs, these birds can have six-foot wingspans, says the guide. Smaller than the bald eagle, they have two-toned wings (black leading edge; gray trailing edge and tip). Their naked heads are an adaptation to “reduce the risk of feather fouling (picking up diseases) from carcasses.”

Though it may go without saying since they live on carrion, turkey vultures have a “developed sense of smell.”

And oh yes, about migration, the guide says, “Complete, to southern states, Central and South Americas.”

So when are these guys leaving?

* by Stan Tekiela, Adventure Publications, Inc. Cambridge, MN , 2nd printing 2000

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