It started with a large brown bird landing in an oak outside the back door. It took me no time at all to process what it was, but I’d never seen one land in the yard before. They always fly high overhead. I watched it move from that tree to one ever closer. Did it even know I was there?
I went to fetch my camera. When I returned, the bird was still there on its unexpected perch. I snapped a few pics then watched as it flew down to land on the bluebird house. I knew the pictures would look awful through the window, but I didn’t care. This was a fun moment and I wanted to record it.
Soon, a second member of the species flew in. It was more passive than the first one, and remained motionless in an obscured tree. A thought began to form in my head: was this a breeding pair? Was the active one searching for a nesting site while the other watched?
I watched too.
The first bird flew down to the forest floor and began to move around. It was definitely looking for something.
After a while, it found the object of its desire: carrion. To each their own.
I watched as the Turkey Vulture began ripping apart the remains of a small mammal. The other vulture, realizing this meal was too small to share, left. I’d never seen vultures come down for carrion before. I’d only ever seen them flying around in lazy circles. Despite how gross it was by human standards, I didn’t want to turn my attention somewhere else.
I always had a mental image of a Turkey Vulture (or a whole flock) landing precisely next to the carrion and immediately chowing down. Nope. Their sense of smell is strong and these ones zoomed in on the location in the backyard from a distance I couldn’t smell a hamburger. From there, they had to look. I assume this wouldn’t be the case with a large animal (a deer, for example) in an open area, but for a small animal hidden beneath the canopy, the vulture had to perform a search.
Observing behavior is a fun part of birding, and to witness vultures coming in for a meal was by far the birding highlight of my day.