By: Pat Coate
Turkey vultures are very common in most states (though some only during breeding season) including New York. The black vulture is a more southern U.S. species and had rarely been seen here in Western NY. But over the past several years black vultures are being reported more often as their territory seems to be expanding northwards.
One local area where black vultures are now consistently being reported, roosting in the same area as turkey vultures, is the Village of Lewiston. We made a quick stop there on our Buffalo-area birding trip. Though we didn’t see the black vultures there were about 20 turkey vultures in the area.
Most of the vultures were roosting in nearby evergreen trees. Others would jockey for position on the roof vents. I presume this is to take advantage of the air venting from rooftop chimneys to either dry wings from a damp night or for warmth.
Turkey vultures, or TVs, can be identified in flight by their large size, dark color, wings held in a v-shape and a wobbly/unsteady flight pattern. Also, from underneath the spread wings will look two-toned as the leading edge is dark and the back edge and wing tips are lighter. Adults have red heads with no feathers; while immature turkey vultures have dark, featherless heads. Turkey vultures wingspans are nearly six feet wide and they weigh only about four pounds. Though turkey vultures look mostly black in flight, most of their feathers are brown. They feed on dead animals, mostly mammals, and are believed to find their food by a highly developed sense of smell.
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