Birds of Seabrook Island

COAST BIRDS
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ANECDOTES

  Black Vulture
 
 

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Species Acct.
Loons
Grebes
Procellarids
Pelicans
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Vultures
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Quail
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Cardinalines
Icterids
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  Order Ciconiiformes (Accipitriformes) - Wading Birds
   Family Cathartidae - Vultures and Condors
  Wading Birds are medium to large, long-legged and long necked. Their bills are long, straight, and sharp. Most species are dependent on water for feeding. Most nest in colonies - a few are solitary. Young remain in the nest after hatching and are cared for by both parents.
   Vultures are typically classified in the Falconiformes but they lack raptorial adaptations. Sibley and Ahlquist (1990) suggest that they are closely related to storks and place them within the Ciconiiformes. The Tree of Life places them in the Accipitriformes (diurnal birds of prey minus the falcons). They may best be considered to belong to a separate but related order, the Cathartiformes.
Vultures characterize the New World and are found in tropical and temperate areas in forests, grasslands, prairie, deserts, and mountains. Higher latitude populations are migratory. They have a heavy, rounded, and hooked bill and are carrion-feeders. Individuals often soar and several may rest in groups. Their wings are long and broad, adapted for thermal soaring. The head and neck are bare, an adaptation to carrion feeding.   
 
Soaring Birds
Carrion Feeding
MORE (Order)      MORE (Family)
     
  Black Vulture, Coragyps atratus 
 
  Cornell     USGS     Wiki     ToL     EoL
        YEAR ROUND - Common / Common (breeds?)
            ALL OPEN LAND AREAS (unlikely on the beach) (soaring)
MORE PICTURES
 
   Black Vultures are slightly smaller than Turkey Vultures and may begin hunting earlier in the day (both species wait for thermals to develop from heating by the sun). Black Vultures have a short tail and a bare gray head and neck. Their primaries flash silvery if seen at the right angle in the sun. They soar with less of a "V" to their wings than Turkey Vultures - that posture coupled with their short tail make it relatively easy to identify each species.
  Unlike Turkey Vultures, Black Vultures do not use the sense of smell to find food - they use vision and, from aloft, are quick to investigate any area where they see other vultures descending so that many quickly congregate around a single carcass. Black and Turkey Vultures may feed together in open areas.
Turkey Vulture
     
Black Vulture "sunning." Note silvery white base to the outer primaries. These "windows" may be visible in soaring Black Vultures. Jenkins Point.
   
  RANGE: Black Vultures occur through the south-east from New Jersey and southern Ohio south and west to central Texas, ranging south through Mexico and Central America to central Chile and Argentina in South America.
  Black Vultures were on the Blue List in 1972 and 1981 and Special Concern in 1982. Declines were due to loss of tree cavities for nests and egg-shell thinning. With the advent of sanitary land-fills and agricultural practices mandating carcass burial, Black Vultures may also find less available food.
  BREEDING:   Monogamous. One brood. Black Vultures breed in open lowlands. Like Turkey Vultures, blacks build no nest. They lay 2 (1-3) eggs in an opening among vegetation or on a stump or in an open a tree cavity. Both parents incubate for 37-41 (48) days. Development is semialtricial. Young remain at the nest for about 60 days, then may move to higher areas. They can fly after 80-94 days. They may partly depend on their parents for several more months. Both sexes tend the young.
  DIET: Black Vultures feed on carrion, usually large carcasses while ignoring smaller dead animals. They are also more gregarious than Turkey Vultures and may bully them away from carcasses. They may occasionally capture young birds, small mammals or other vertebrates. They also eat plant material such as coconuts or rotting vegetation and will scavenge garbage dumps. They feed their young by regurgitation. They may forage in family groups. Vultures (both species) regurgitate actively when disturbed.
  VOICE: Black Vultures are generally silent,  sometimes hissing or barking.
  NOTES:
   Checklists -
      Seabrook. Kiawah - common year-round (breeds). Edisto - resident.
      Coastal - common permanent resident. Hilton Head - common permanent resident. Cape Romain - common year-round, breeds.
         Huntington Beach - rare October - November.
      Caw Caw - fairly common year-round. ACE - common year-round.
   CBC: ACE 62, 52, 66, 257, 64, 74, 108, 77; Charleston 66, 30, 79, 21, 31, 138, 95, 90;
            St. Helena/Fripp x, x, x, x, x, x, 69, 74; Hilton Head 90, 126, 112, 71, 57, 124, 102, 132; Sun City/Okatie 12, 74, 128, 229, 186, 235, 154, 157;
            McClellanville 48, 29, 20, 22, nc, 70, 44, 61; Winyah Bay x, x, 6, 60, 67, 16, 73, 100; Litchfield/Pawley's 253, 53, 142, 112, 69, 108, 80, 74.
   SCBBA: Probably/possible breeding in all coastal counties.
   P&G: Resident, common on coastal plain. Egg dates; 15 February - 17 May. Early breeder.
   Avendex: 1 record, 148 Birds at Cape Romain, December 26, 1982.
   Potter: Common in the lower coastal plain.  
  ●   Common - abundant. I have not seen Black Vultures feeding on the high-energy beach but they participate in soaring groups over the mainland and can be identified from the beach area. They are more often found soaring inland - near Palmetto Lake, over Jenkins Point, at Freshfields, over the pastures of the Equestrian Center, etc. They are often seen on the ground in wooded areas and feed near roadways including Seabrook Island Road or in the open fields of the Equestrian Center - wherever there is roadkill. I have also seen them feeding on mud flats in Bohicket Creek. They may breed on Seabrook?
   
   

Soaring birds
    We have a number of species of birds that ride thermals. On a clear day over the beach, it is common to see Brown Pelicans and gulls, especially Ring-billed Gulls, riding thermals far above the beach and river (binoculars are a must). They may be joined by Wood Storks. Another soarer that regularly flies over our coast line is the Bald Eagle - they are large birds with long wings which they hold almost straight out from the body when flying (in adults, the head and tail are white if your eyes are sharp). Eagles are usually solitary but may be found in groups of 2 or 3 together. 
   You may also see a Red-tailed Hawk soaring over the coast-line. They are broad-winged, broad-tailed buteos (hawks) that fly and soar in tighter spirals, hunting prey visually as they fly. Adults have reddish tails that are fanned and can often be seen as they soar overhead.
   If you find a group of soaring birds, you can recognize pelicans and gulls fairly easily - size and shape are helpful. Among the large soarers, storks are distinctive with their extended neck and feet. Turkey Vultures have long tails and hold their wings in a "V." Black Vultures have short tails and hold their wings in a shallow "V" Bald Eagles are large birds with long tails and they hold their wings straight out. Identify hawks by their size and shape.  
   On the beach, practice looking up and scanning inland with your binoculars. You may see many more birds than you expect.  LOOK UP!
   Ospreys are also common over the river, inlet and beach. They are fish eating raptors ("fish-eagles") that fly over our lakes, estuaries, rivers, and ocean edges hunting fish which they spot visually. They often hover and then dive to catch a fish with strong raptorial claws. They are easy to identify because their wings form a dihedral angle from the body (the inner arm wing is often held up and the outer hand wing is depressed for form a shallow inverted "W").
       
    Banner - Black Vultures, roof near entry to Seabrook.
       
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