Monday, February 28, 2011

The Other End of the Bird Size Spectrum

My last blog post included a photo of a hummingbird that hangs around our yard. Yesterday, another species of bird visited.  A VULTURE... This guy was at the other end of the size spectrum from the hummingbird.

Out here in California they are usually referred to as "turkey vultures" or "turkey buzzards." No matter what you call them, they are huge and we don't usually see them this closely.  Our daughter and her family had just left our house when she called and said there was one in the street eating a dead rabbit (sorry Mr. Bunny). I grabbed my camera and ran outside. Here is what I saw...

Sorry about the dead bunny. Notice that the vulture has no feathers on it's head. That is an evolutionary adaption as a result of spending much time with it's head inside dead animals. Yuck! (I'm sure you all knew that.

It's easy to see why these guys soar so effortlessly and for so long. Their wingspan can be as large as 6-8 feet.

Other than the head, it's a beautiful bird.

His feathers were about 10 beautiful shades of brown.

When you look at an extreme closeup of it's face, it actually looked pretty cute!
(meet little Miss Emma Pearl)



  1. wow, you got some great shots of this bird! I didn't know that about why they don't have feathers on their head.... eeeww! but at the same time, cool how that works :)

  2. Wow! What bird will show up next - a penguin?

  3. Ewww on the vulture! Gives me a serious case of the creeps. But nice photos! Wow! Miss Emma Pearl, on the other hand, SHE can visit me any time!! What a cutie! :)

  4. Great photos!
    I saw my first turkey buzzard last year as I was driving to town. They are huge.

  5. I love the pictures. Especially the cat.

  6. That third picture down is really cool; how you can see the underside and top of his wings on the same shot.

  7. Magnificent pictures of the vulture, Patrick. For one thing, they make me really glad I'm not a bunny or a field mouse!

  8. Good for Ashley for alerting you to this beauty!

    Ohhhhh....Emma IS a Pearl! So cute!!!

  9. I think I prefer Miss Emma Pearl over the vulture! :-) But your shots of the vulture are priceless...


  10. Sarah - thanks Sarah! I guess it can get kind of messy if they had feathers there...

    Alex - Maybe! I did see an eagle last Wednesday, but I haven't really looked a the photos yet.

    Pam - Thanks Pam! Emma is a cutie.

    Belle - They are huge! This is probably the closest I've been to one. Big!

    Oilfield Trash - Thanks so much! Yeah, the cat is a bit cuter!

    Cake Betch - Yep! Except for the head, it was beautiful.

    Margaret - Thanks Margaret! Oh yeah, I don't want anyone tearing at me when I'm gone...

    Bossy Betty - She knew I'd want to take photos! Oh Emma....

  11. The pictures are so good...and that Emma Pearl is a cutie!!!

  12. strange something so graceful can be so ugly.

  13. This is a stellar post in my book! You really captured this guy. I tried to photograph a group of them along the road in Oregon one time and all I got was the part of the wing that is left out of your second photo. I didn't know about the reason for the bald head, so thanks for the research! Love the twist at the end :)

  14. The hummingbird and Emma Pearl and much cuter than that vulture. Those things are huge! Great photos Pat!

  15. WOW, you know the 'TV' really is a beautiful bird and so necessary in the circle of life, but ugh...not at all sending the warm and fuzzy thought anywhere in regards to this guy!
    Love the photos...

  16. I had one perched on my roof once, if I were superstitious I might have though it an evil omen. They are interesting watch as they soar and I often wonder where they find enough carrion to sustain them.

  17. Oh wow, thats actually a great picture. Definitely reflection of the 'circle of life,' with an urban backdrop. I really like it! ;-)

  18. you really took some amazing shots here beautifully done

  19. Wow. That wing span is something.

    Awww, kitty. One of mine is boring holes into my back as I type this.

  20. A VULTURE! Eek!

    Emma Pearl is beautiful, by the way!

  21. Nevine - Emma is a little cutie, that's for sure. Thanks Nevine!

    Brian - Thanks Brian!

    Budd - Yep! If not for that head...

    tapirgal - thanks so much! That Emma is a fierce one also...not!

    m. - I'd have to say you are right! Thanks so much!

    Tracy - Thanks Tracy! I was kind of in awe of him. There was an eagle perched in a tree the other day, but I couldn't really get a good shot of him.

    Martha - Oh yes! They are master soarers...thanks!

    Talei - Yep! usually it's the crows or hawks who get to the road kill first.

    becca - Thanks becca! I appreciate it!

    M Pax - They are pretty impressive up close! We have a few also! Each of them is a character!

    Talli - Creepy maybe, but still beautiful and with a job to do. Emma is indeed a cutie! Thanks Talli.

  22. the head has a utilitarian beauty to it, natures garbage can - like the raccoon...

  23. Great shots Patrick, but I like the cat better than this bird. He looks spooky to me.
    Have a nice week:)

  24. We had one sitting in front of my house last summer. Eating a possum. I knew they were big but did not realize that they are actually HUGE!

    A car would come by and he would fly into the tree then when it was safe, back down he came until he was full, I guess.

    Great pictures!! Mine were fuzzy. I'm not near as good as you in taking photos!

  25. wow. I totally missed the hummingbird one - pretty cool! but now you have a vulture too?? that's amazing!! it's nearly exciting enough to take up bird watching! ha ha!

  26. A very large bird indeed.
    The vulture is all part of the "big picture". It takes care of the dead animals and actually helps prevent disease that way.
    I see the vulture as a warrior of the earth.
    Have to admit though . . . kitty is REALLY cute.
    Great photos Pat.

  27. That is one ugly bird (ok, at least it's head is ugly). HUGE!!! Whoa!

    That kitty is freaking adorable! Please keep it away from the vultures, for it's own good...and away from the hummingbirds, for their own good! Heehee.

  28. Really good shots of the vulture. I knew they didn't have feathers on their head but never knew the reason. The cat does look cute, though.

  29. Vultures may clean up the dead debris but they are truly majestic with their wing span.

  30. Oh my! Miss Emma Pearl was a great way to end this post. The vulture and I have nightmares together...and now with the added bunny....ack.
    Think Emma Pearl, think Emma Pearl...
    GREAT captures Pat!

  31. They are enormous and, as you said, other than the head quite beautiful. We have the turkey and black vultures here. They are basically the same other than, obviously enough, the black vulture's head is black. The can be frightening taking off from behind a bush in front of your car.

    Excellent shots, although, we've never seen one that looked quite like Ms. Emma.

    Darryl and Ruth : )

  32. We have turkey vultures where we live too...they are HUGE...and like you said: wingspans that go on forever.
    They sit high in the trees on one of our lake's islands when it is hot and sit with their wings wide open to cool is spectacular. Love your shots of them!

  33. Holy crap! I've never seen a vulture like that around these parts. Insane. Keep that kitty away from that vulture.

  34. I have to admit the close up of the face is amazing :^)

  35. Great captures..last year I had one
    follow me along the trail... was that a bad omen.?

  36. We see them often since we live in the boonies, but never have I managed to get any pictures. They are beautiful creatures, just but your thumb over the head.

  37. Great shots of a not so nice bird! I never knew that about the reason for the lack of feathers on the head. Yuck! lol Cute kitty, too.

  38. Jhon - You are right! this bird is made for one thing only, keeping the place clean!

    Berit - I think I do also! thanks, you have a nice week also!

    KaLynn - To them, road kill is a feast! thanks so much!

    DOMS - I actually ran into an eagle the other day, but I'm not sure th photos are good enough to post! Yeah, we love that little kitty!

    OWT - Very Large! They both serve a purpose, the bird keeps it all clean and the cat purrs on my lap.

    Marlene - It was pretty cool! The vulture is only danger cats around our house! Coyotes, cougars, hawks, eagles, etc... Thanks!

    Chuck - Thanks Chuck! thanks my kitty! (one of 'em anyway)

    Clarissa - They really are majestic! It was cool being close to it.

    Dawn - Go to your happy place!!!
    thanks Dawn!

    D&R - Yes, Emma is not your normal vulture! I haven't seen a black vulture, I'm going to have to check and see if they are out here. thanks!

    Joan - Thanks so much Joan! I wanted more photos, but our time together was limited!

    Cheeseboy - We NEVER let our cats outside... Outdoor cats don't last long here!

    Jimmy - I agree! It was pretty amazing!

    faye - Did you get any photos! That must have been interesting...

    Gwen - Yep, even with the head, they are pretty cool looking.

  39. Marguerite - thanks so much! Maybe the shaved head is just for fashion!

  40. AWESOME!!!!! God's little Garbage-Men & Womenz!

    Years back Pat--they took a nose dive in the South, and were protected. Road Kills went for weeks w/o cleanup. On my recent trip to Fl....

    TONS of "Buzzards" were circling, and the only Roadkill was fresh!


  41. EMMA PEARL--is EVERYCAT--but THE most beautiful. Lookit the paint details on the nose alone!!!!

    Awesome Pat! THANKS MY FRIEND!


  42. Are you serious about the "no feathers" dead head evolved to a skin head thing? Ok, I'm not saying that right, but you know what I mean.

  43. awesome photo's.
    If I look outside my window I see a pidgeon and some seagulls.
    And more pidgeons.

  44. I like watching the turkey vultures as they ride the wind currents; there are times they swoop right past my studio window and then soar out over the valley... gracefully.
    PS: I just fell in love with Miss Emma Pearl. Would you look at those eyes.

  45. I've never liked those birds...their head grosses me out every time. But the rest of them is beautiful, I have to agree with that.
    The cat is adorable. :)

  46. John - Yep, as much as people don't like them, they really do serve a purpose! Oh emma!

    Jesse - I am serious! I also know what you mean! Evolution...

    Arjan - Seagulls are nice! It means you are close to the ocean!

    Wick DF - It sure is! I was surprised!

    Diana - They are so graceful! thanks about emma!

    Baby Sister - From the neck up, they aren't all that attractive. That's for sure!

  47. So glad you ended that post on a high note. :-)

    Have you ever read any of the Hank the Cowdog series? Your grandchildren will love them. This post made me think of them.

    Not to long ago I had to cross the Red River on a perilous looking rickety bridge. And down at the other end was a herd, flock, pride? of turkey buzzards just waiting, daring me to cross. Shivers.

  48. Spectacular shots...a pity, vultures are dying out in India due to unmonitored usage of certain fertilisers....

  49. Anna - My pleasure! I haven't heard of that series, but I'll check it out for sure! I see you made it across okay! They are a bit creepy looking.

    Blue Wave - Thanks so much!

    Rekha - Thanks Rek! That's sad to hear! I hope they outlaw it soon!

  50. I had to do a double take on number 3, I thought it was about to fly into the tree! as always, great shots

  51. Truly amazing these photos of a vulture so close to home. Very good shots. Greetings.

  52. Amazing shots. We have turkey vultures here in Central Ohio, too. Odd creatures.

  53. There are tons of those around here. I am a little scared of them. I feel like if I were to ever get into a fight with one, they would win.

  54. baygirl - It few into it, but didn't crash into it! Thanks!

    Leovi - thanks so much Leovi! Greetings to you as well...

    Tess - Thanks! Yes, they are very odd looking!

    Erika - They are pretty large and intimidating...

    Margaret - I agree with you! They are beautiful...

  55. Wow what a find! I spent my first 40yrs in OC and I didn't see a turkey vulture until I moved to Newtown. :)

  56. Hi Pat, We have those huge Turkey Vultures around here too...BUT--they've never come close enough to get a good picture like you got. Like you said, except for the heads, they are a pretty bird....

    Miss Emma Pearl is MUCH prettier than the turkey buzzard.

    Have a great day.
    I've been on Bludbird Watch all afternoon. Guess what my blog is about tomorrow??????

  57. James - This is the first time I've ever seen one up close.

    Betsy - Oh that Emma! She is a little hellion....

  58. I've never seen a vulture and you are in perfect timing for capturing those shots! WOW!!!

  59. Are you sure that's an actual bunny carcass?

    I like to think that perhaps it's just a bunch of crumpled up paper towels.


  60. mice - I do sometimes seem to be in the right place at the right time, camera in hand...Thanks!

    Jenny - Yeah, maybe that's what it is... We have bunchs of crumpled up paper towels running all over the place here... We don't even care if they eat our plants cause they are so darn cute! (not all our neighbors feel that way, but we do!)

  61. Great photos! I found your blog through Alex Cavanaugh.

  62. i came on over from Alex's blog. i love to watch the turkey vultures playing on the thermals. and i love hummingbirds too. nice blog.

  63. A vulture on your street, how odd, and what a photo opt ~ I love it! And Miss Emma Pearl is way too cute.

  64. Michelle - Thanks so much for commenting! I appreciate it. I also love watching the birds soar. Our back yard overlooks a valley that vultures and hawks love to soar around it. It drives the crows crazy, but they still do it!

    Ree - where I live they've done a very good job of keeping it very semi-rural. So there is lot's of room for critters. Oh that Emma!

  65. The motion in the middle shot is amazing, love it! Great work.

  66. The vulture is a scary bird to me, but you captured its beauty, strength, and power!

  67. JM - thanks so much! I wish I had more time to take these!

  68. Even though the Turkey vulture has a face only a mother could love I enjoy seeing them soar high in the sky. As for the bunny, these birds are just part of Mother Nature's clean-up crew.

    Miss Emma Pearl is adorable. I am catching up after being away for a week, part of that time was spent catching feral cats so they can have better lives. Miss Emma is very lucky to have a home.

  69. SQ - I totally agree with you. They are so magical looking in the sky! I remember that you were going to do that. I'm so proud of you for doing that. The more of them that get fixed, the fewer that get euthanized! We currently have three cats all are rescues. One of them was a feral kitten. Along that line, my wife volunteers as a transporter for rescued dogs and cats. She drove over 200 miles yesterday to deliver one 15 year old dog to a new home. It had been dumped at a semi-local pound. I think I'm going to do a blog post on what my wife does... Great job Judy!

  70. You have so many birds over there, all I see here is sparrows and pigeons...

  71. ha when I scrolled through and saw this real quick earlier I thought 'what the?' but now reading through it I enjoy the joke with the kitty.

    Great action shots of the turkey vulture (and cool factoid about his bald head).


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