I knew that a predictable location to find Black Vultures was at the lodge in Hocking Hills State Park, but I had never noticed them in Athens County until a little over a month ago.
Would it freak you out to see this sight in your neighborhood?
As I was driving in to work one snowy morning in December, I noticed some vultures at a deer carcass alongside the road. It took another day or two for me to realize that they were BLACK Vultures, and that there was not one carcass, but two - one on each side of the road. They feasted on the two carcasses for quite a few days, and I thought they might disperse once they were finished with them.
Insert your best Lurch "You rang?" imitation here.
Well, they stayed even after they picked those deer bones clean. Some days I can drive by the spot and see nary a vulture, but other days they look like they are thinking of taking over the neighborhood. I don't know what folks who live on this street think about the vultures choosing this as a roosting and congregating area, but I imagine they are not too pleased with it.
Unfortunately, vultures get a bad rap for their seemingly filthy habit of eating carrion (somebody has to pick up the garbage, though, right?), and in the case of Black Vultures, they are not liked by farmers as they have been known to pick off newborn calves, lambs, and pigs (although information from the Birds of North American Online website suggests that they eat live prey only "occasionally.")
I try to appreciate all birds for their unique characteristics, but will admit that I'm more drawn to those who fall into the "cute" category. Neither the Turkey Vulture nor the Black Vulture really fall into that category for me. Especially when I see them lined up on the roof of someone's house, or the fence surrounding someone's swimming pool - then they start to look a little... creepy (sorry!).
The main house these Black Vultures have chosen to congregate on is currently unoccupied. I'm not sure if it's on the market right now or not (I haven't seen a "for sale" sign in the yard for many months), but if it is, this could definitely have a negative effect on the property value!
As evening sets in, these Black Vultures almost appear to be saluting the sun.
Another thing going against them is a problem that you have with any bird: whitewash. Of course, that's just a colloquial way of saying "That bird done pooped all over my roof/car/insert other personal object here!" The larger the bird, the larger the excrement. And never mind if you are one of the birds who happens to be roosting below someone else who has to go.
Whitewash, on wings. It took me a few minutes to figure out that this was poo and not some kind of variation in plumage.
Whitewash, on roof. Nothing says "Welcome to the neighborhood!" like a poopy roof!
Across the road from this house there's a large tree that's also acting as a roosting area, and it's been host to both Black AND Turkey Vultures.
In fact, while I was out taking these pictures, the Turkey Vultures started circling overhead.
Turkey Vulture overhead in flight
I wish that I had a similar photo of the Black Vulture in flight to show for comparison, but right now I don't. The silvery-white all along the length of the wing (as well as in the tail) when seen from below is a key field mark when telling TUVUs apart from BLVUs. Black Vultures have white-ish coloring only at the very tips of their wings, which is illustrated in this BLVU that is taking flight:
Interestingly, Black Vultures are quite dependent on Turkey Vultures. TUVUs are well known for their keen sense of smell, but this is a trait not shared by the Black Vulture. Thus, BLVUs rely on TUVUs to find the carrion, and then they will muscle their way in and take over the carcass. Black Vultures fly higher in the sky than Turkey Vultures so that they can keep track of where the TUVUs are and follow them quickly to a food source. When examining range maps of the two species, it is obvious that the Black Vultures only live in areas where Turkey Vultures also exhibit a year-round presence.
I will be interested to observe how long the Black Vultures stay around this part of town. There is another well-known part of town where vultures (probably both species) stage spectacular flights in the morning and in the evening, but I haven't seen the birds in that area for a while. Yet one more item to put on my radar for "further observation."
A mixed group of vultures soaring in the evening sky.