Our New Neighbors: Vultures!

Turkey vultures

Turkey vulture perched on railroad tracks

Vulture stretching wings

There were more than 15 vultures perched in and circling around this tree

Recently I wrote a post called, “Are You Seeing More Turkey Vultures Than You Used To?” Without a doubt, I can now answer affirmatively – YES. Perhaps it’s because my awareness of vultures has increased. Or, maybe it’s because I’ve been intentionally looking for them. Whatever the reason, I see vultures not just occasionally, but almost every day. It’s not only when I’m out and about; quite often they are circling over my house. In fact, they seem to have developed a habit of circling over my home and neighborhood on a regular basis.

If I was the type of person who put faith in omens and bad luck charms, I’d be worried the vultures were warning me and my neighbors of impending danger. The big screen often portrays vultures as harbingers of doom, circling over weakened prey, waiting for the opportunity to feast. The truth is, vultures do not circle dying animals (see article: Vultures!). Their keen sense of smell leads them to carrion (see article: Nature’s Focus: The Turkey Vulture). Not all movies depict vultures in a bad way though. In the animated film, “The Jungle Book,” vultures were characterized as friendly fellows (see clip). Whatever the opinion, the “clean up” work of vultures is valuable because it can help prevent the spread of disease.

A few days ago, as I was heading back from the grocery store, I spotted three turkey vultures sitting on the railroad tracks in my neighborhood. I quickly drove the rest of the way home, unloaded the groceries, grabbed my camera and headed back to the tracks. The vultures didn’t pay attention to me as I snapped a few photos of them. They contentedly perched on the metal rails and, every once in a while, stretched out their wings. The turkey vultures seemed quite comfortable in their role as the newest residents of my neighborhood. Comments?

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10 responses to “Our New Neighbors: Vultures!

  1. Any idea what is attracting them to your area? As scavengers they’re pretty useful in cleaning up such carrion as road kill, or even inhabit waste fills….

  2. Fascinating observations. Is there more carrion? An uptick in roadkill, for some reason, maybe an explosion in some population, like deer or …? Keep us posted if you find out more…

  3. Thanks for your comments Liz and “Out Walking.” I guess there could be a food supply for vultures along the railroad tracks although I’ve never noticed that. We have lots of deer-car mishaps on highways in the area though.

  4. I had difficulty with dogs in my neighborhood and put out a box trap with delicious meats in it. I didn’t get any dogs, but I did get vultures. Lots of ’em! It’s been 3 weeks and they’re starting to thin out.

  5. They still give me an eerie feeling…maybe it’s the way they look. I always did love that scene from the jungle book, though. We often quote them around here when someone asks “what do you want to do” 🙂

  6. Make sure no one in the neighborhood has a gas leak. I understand that smell may attract vultures.

  7. Pingback: Are You Seeing More Turkey Vultures Than You Used To? | Nature in the Burbs

  8. I saw about 30 – 40 a few days ago in two nearby circles above Navasink, NJ. They frequent this area but this was the largest swarm I’d ever seen.Twice the normal swarm. My guess is that half are migrating like the starlings in Kentucky.

    • Could be. I also read an article recently that said they may be appearing together in larger groups in NJ because the loss of so many trees during Hurricane Sandy has impacted their normal habitat.

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