Thursday, May 13, 2010

Turkey Vultures

I have something amazing for you today! I happened to find several turkey vultures on my most recent hiking trip. I don't know exactly how many there were, but there were at least three in this tree, and at least that many in the air. These are huge birds; the biggest I've ever seen, by far. A turkey vulture's wingspan is about six feet/1.8 meters!

I happened to be trying to get pictures of some of these birds in the air when I saw these three, yes three, in this tree! The problem was that I hit a wrong button on my camera, and it began a picture slide show. I couldn't get it out of that as much as I tried. I finally had to shut it off and turn it back on. All of this while these gigantic birds were flying around me!

Even with my camera problems, I still got a lot of good stuff for you. I have this big bird on video! So for this episode of Rat TV, I have a good view of this turkey vulture resting in this tree. It begins to become restless, and stretches and yawns, getting ready to fly. I never knew birds yawned!

After stretching and loosening up from its rest. this big turkey vulture leaps into the air and flies away. Actually it flew over the tree and back around to where I was, but I didn't get that part in the video.

If you look closely at this second picture, you can see a second turkey vulture to the left and a little higher than the obvious one. Both of them have their wings stretched out wide. These birds looked every bit their huge size from where I was standing.

Now you can see all three in this picture! I kept the camera zoomed in as much as I could while still keeping it back far enough to have decent picture quality. It was really hard to judge how far to go with it, because this is not something I see every day.

I thought about moving closer, but I really wasn't too eager to bother the biggest birds I've ever seen. I don't know that they would attack me or anything else, but I still didn't feel like messing with something this big. They're vultures, which means that they're scavenger birds. They like their meat already dead.

In this one they seem to be talking to each other. I wonder what the one on the right was saying to the one on the left. "Hey, let's fly over and scare the crap out of that idiot with the camera. Heh heh heh."

Looking a little closer, you can see that turkey vultures are an odd combination of very beautiful and very ugly. Those faces really don't seem to match the bodies. If you want to see what a dinosaur might look like, this might be it.

Click on any of these pictures to get a better look at the birds. This one really shows what an ugly face these birds have. But I guess they wouldn't think of themselves as ugly. I'm sure those bald red heads have a very useful purpose.

I included this last picture because this is a classic pose for a vulture. And I wanted to make sure I gave you as many different views of this bird as I could. I have many more pictures, but these represent them all well. And the video gives you a good idea of what happened. They all flew out of the tree one by one.

I never thought I'd see birds like these, but I now think I'll be seeing more, maybe even this year. I've been hearing that they have been seen very close to my house. And I happened to see what looked like a pterodactyl flying over the road where I was driving this morning. Actually, that was most likely that great blue heron I showed you yesterday, but I expect more of these giant monster birds very soon.

Nature Center Magazine - Copas will be bringing us the state of Connecticut today to travel through. Go take a look. I'm planning some changes to NC-Mag in the days to come, which should make it even better than before. Always evolving and improving.


  1. WOW, those are great shots. They do have a head that looks rather small for the rest of their body.

  2. Fantastic photos Ratty! I'm going to say, though, that those dudes are just straight up UGLY as homemade sin (period :o)

  3. You make these ugly birds looks good Ratty! What a feast of pictures. I love the pose when they spread their wings.

  4. Great post, wonderful photos, and very funny! Turkey vultures are indeed gigantic, and an essential part of our ecosystem given they clean up a great deal of carrion. They also have tremendously bad breath!

  5. Awesome photos and video Ratty!! I see them flying in groups way up in the sky at times but never have seen any up close. You are lucky they didn't poop on you! Ha! What a mess that would be. Great post!!

  6. had such a lucky day! Fantastic pictures of the vultures.

  7. They stretch their wings to warm up. They are a 1st sign of spring around me, taking over clean-up when the eagles leave.Their heads are bald to stay clean, they dry off better.Fun to watch them catch thermals and coast with ease in search of the next meal.They are so big I have heard a loud whoosh when they fly close especially going down a hill or bluff.

  8. Nice pictures

    My last post on my blog was about Turkey Vultures here in the Falkland Islands

    Check it out at


  9. ugly heads with majestic wings, great shots Ratty!!

  10. I have not seen such a big bird; I'll if I can fly.

  11. Awww cmon now!! They're not ugly at all, they're just misunderstood! back on our family farm in Louisiana, when a cow dies, who do you think cleans all that up? They are very valuable, and while they creep out city folk, they are essential to the circle of life. thank you Sir Ratimus, for showing us all sides of nature, and not just the fluffy bunny stuff.

    P.S. Massive apologies for my absence, but I'm back now!

  12. Ratty, FANTASTIC video. I don't know that I would want to be too close to these guys :) That wing span is amazing. Your videos are just so enjoyable.

  13. Those vultures really are huge. I have seen some especially in the winter when they sit in the sun and spread their wings to get warm. At least that is what someone told me. Don't know if it is true or not. They do clean up dead animals. Great video.

  14. Great shooting Ratty! We have lots of them here on the west side of the state. I've seen over 100 at one time in this neighborhood. I believe the golden eagle that I saw last year was bigger than these bad boys. I love to watch them soar on the thermals.

  15. Aren't they amazing? They are huge. We have several that live on an island on our lake..and they spread their wings when they are hot to cool off too.
    And yes, they are ugbeaut (ugly and beautiful). ha I am waiting to capture them on camera again later this summer when we take out boat out to the the island they are usually at.
    Great shots, Ratty, I am so glad you got the opportunity to see them in person too.

  16. Wow, what amazing big birds! I guess they don't seem ugly to each other, sort of like the many humans who think that sphynx cats (the bald cats) are ugly, but other cats don't think one way or another about it.

  17. Catching up and so thrilled I did. What amazing pics, thanks for sharing.