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Category Archives: birds

Well, my mother probably would not have enjoyed watching Turkey Vultures. But I do. They are a social bird that roosts in groups and scavenges for food together. With a wing span of over 70 inches and weighing more than four pounds, they can lift off easily in warm air, seemingly effortlessly. According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, “Turkey Vultures lack the vocal organs to make proper songs. Most of their vocalizations come down to a form of low, guttural hiss made when they are irritated or vying for a better spot on a carcass. They also may give a low, nasal whine while in flight.”

I have never seen a Turkey Vulture nest. There are lots of vultures around here and I wonder, are they all part of a non-breeding gang of teenager vultures?

A couple days ago, I noticed several vultures in the draw below our driveway. Looking closer later in the day, Ken discovered a dead deer. It probably had been hit by a car on the highway and managed to get this far before it died. The number of vultures increases each day and I don’t expect the carcass to last much longer.

 

 

Speaking of motherhood, and fatherhood, a pair of Mountain Bluebirds has chosen one of our nest boxes to set up housekeeping. This is very exciting! Normally both Mountain and Western Bluebirds nest reasonably far away from our house so we see them only on our walks or at the bird bath. The box they’ve chosen is attached to the bottom of our deck and easily seen from inside the house and from the porch so we get to see them often. The Violet-green Swallows who have traditionally used this box are not happy.

All this time at home gives us a chance to see more of the backyard wildlife. This past week, we’ve had visits from Wild Turkeys and Turkey Vultures. Clearly Spring is in the air. I think the Wild Turkeys found out that hunting season is cancelled and they are especially boastful about their presence.

Both of these species have odd characteristics starting with their heads. The turkey’s is bright blue and the vulture’s head is red. Neither species has feathers on its head. Turkeys were introduced to Washington as a game bird. They can be a pest especially if large flocks of them move into your neighborhood. Vultures are native birds. They have a very keen sense of smell and eat carrion where they find it.

Yesterday, while eating breakfast, a pair of Pileated Woodpeckers landed on the snag in front of the house! What a delight to see these beautiful birds reasonably close. The female didn’t stick around for photos.

Two Hairy Woodpeckers were chasing each other around the snags and feeders yesterday. I think it was a bit of a territorial dispute. Spring is in the air, after all.

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