[CT Birds] Turkey vultures

Linda & Steve Broker ls.broker at cox.net
Tue May 19 18:07:33 EDT 2015


I’ll offer a less than complete description of nesting by Turkey Vultures.  In the Central Valley Lowlands of Connecticut, they seek out trap rock ridges and find caves or rock recesses in talus slopes.  There, they will lay eggs on leaf litter and incubate them in relative safety.  Their excrement at the rock entrance and a rather strong odor suggest their presence.  Turkey Vultures also will nest in barns when they have access.  

Some years ago, the late Steve Collins (SCSU botanist and ecologist) and I observed nesting Turkey Vultures at High Rock in Hamden, just north of West Rock Ridge State Park.  I was thinner then, and I could shimmy between a split in rocks to get to the nest recess.  Wiggling in and looking down with a flashlight, I saw that a TV was two feet below and in front of my face, sitting on eggs.  The bird was not displaced by my rude intrusion.  Later, Steve and I returned to the site and briefly removed the now two white, downy young for photographs.  We saw them later after they fledged from the cave and were being attended by the adults.  Happy story.  Keep in mind that adult Turkey Vultures feed their young by vomiting up carrion.  We were not witness to this experience.  As an aside, carrion beetles are present in Turkey Vulture nest leaf litter, so I collected a few beetles from the High Rock nest and transferred them to Charles Remington, late entomologist at Yale Peabody Museum.  Charles identified the species of carrion beetle for me.

A friend in the Storrs area described to me a pair of Turkey Vultures nesting in a quiet barn there.  The birds found some space behind a 4’ x 8’ piece of plywood leaning up against one of the barn walls.

During the Massachusetts Breeding Bird Atlas 2, which ran from 2007 through 2011, there was only one record of nesting Turkey Vultures at Cape Cod (Barnstable County).  Not surprisingly, the nest was found in a barn.  (No trap rock ridges on the Cape!)

Much more complete information on the reproductive lives of Turkey Vultures can be found in Bent’s Life Histories of North American Birds (available through Dover Publications) or at Birds of North America On-line (subscription).  

Thanks for bringing to mind some nice memories of Turkey Vultures.  I think they are pretty beautiful birds.  

Steve Broker


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