Birds of Seabrook Island

COAST BIRDS
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  Turkey Vulture
 
 

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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)
     
  Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura 
 
      Cornell     USGS     Wiki   ToL     EoL
        YEAR ROUND - Common (more in migration) / Common
           ALL OPEN AREAS (soaring)
MORE PICTURES
 
   Turkey Vultures are large black birds with a long tail and a small, bare head which is red in adults. They soar on thermals, often holding their wings in a deep "V."
Turkey Vulture
     
Turkey Vultures. Jenkins Point.
Note perforate nostril
   
  RANGE: Turkey Vultures range across the United States. In winter they withdraw from more northern areas, wintering south to the Bahamas and through Central America, the Greater Antilles and South America (to Argentina). 
   Turkey Vultures are found year found in the south-east. However, they are summer residents only north of the Ohio River and across the Great Plains. Hinkley, Ohio, has adopted the Turkey Vulture as their town bird and regularly celebrates its arrival each spring.
  BREEDING: Monogamous. One brood. Turkey Vultures breed in both mountainous and lowland habitats. They have no nest (or, at best, rake together a few stones and leaves). They lay 2 (1-3) eggs which are incubated by both parents for 34-41 days. Development is semialtricial. One parent remains with and broods the chick most of the time for several days. Both parents feed the young by regurgitation. If disturbed, the young hiss and regurgitate. The young can fly after 66-88 days.
   Vultures were on the Blue List in 1972 and 1980 and Special Concern 1981-82 - populations suffered from egg-shell thinning from pesticide contamination.
  DIET: Turkey Vultures eat ANY dead animal matter, including bones and skin. They may also feed on decaying vegetable matter, live insects, or live fish in drying-up ponds. Young are fed by regurgitation.
  VOICE: Silent. They lack intrinsic muscles in the syrinx. They may hiss or grunt and their wings may "swish."
  NOTES:
   Checklists -
      Seabrook. Kiawah - common year-round. Edisto - resident.
      Coastal - common permanent resident. Hilton Head - common permanent resident. Cape Romain - common year-round, breeds.
         Huntington Beach
- common year-round
      Caw Caw - fairly common year-round. ACE - common year-round.
   CBC: ACE 178, 167, 176, 386, 103, 199, 107; Charleston 241, 137, 149, 109, 78, 178, 277, 174;
            St. Helena/Fripp x, x, x, x, x, x, 87, 36; Hilton Head 149, 153, 92, 82, 124, 163, 175, 271;
               Sun City/Okatie 0, 130, 271, 391, 272, 174, 100 (plus 4 unident); 127
            McClellanville 187, 38, 92, 110, nc, 132, 97, 131; Winyah Bay x, x, 79, 53, 58, 90, 355, 116;
               Litchfield/Pawley's 412, 132, 277, 130, 447, 195, 251, 248.
   SCBBA: Probably/possible breeding in all coastal counties. Probably/possible breeding in all coastal counties. Widespread across the state.
   P&G: Common resident, numbers increase during migration. Maximum 105, McClellanville, 23 December 1984. Egg dates: 20 February - 18 April. Early breeder.
   M&P: Inland populations may have declined but winter populations appear to be stable.
   Avendex: 1 record (maximum, above).
   Potter: Fairly common permanent residents. Local populations are augmented by migrants from the north in winter.
  ●  Common/abundant. Turkey Vultures are often seen over our woods, fields, marshes, and beach. I have seen them feeding on the bones of a long-dead gull on the beach and a dead (and very ripe) fish on sand. They are commonly found feeding on animals killed along the road but they are dependent on other scavengers for access - vultures cannot rip through the skin of most mammals.
   Vultures roost communally. They may be seen spreading their wings to catch the early sun in the morning. They generally do not fly until the surface has warmed enough to produce thermals which they use extensively.
   On Seabrook they can be seen flying on all but the stormiest days. They will feed anyplace they find carrion. They regularly patrol our marshes and the beach. They can be seen perched around the Equestrian Center in trees or on the ground during inclement weather. They are not known to breed on the island.
   
   
Carrion feeding in other areas of the world...
   On a recent visit to Australia, I was somewhat taken aback by the absence of soaring birds - we are so used to vultures and other large birds enjoying time aloft. However, in Australia only the very large White-bellied Sea Eagle, Haliaeetus leucogaster, was seen over the beaches and shore. Again, visiting northern Europe, there were no large soaring birds. This led me to ask about carrion feeding birds.
   In tropical areas of the Old World, species of buteos (hawks and their relatives) lack feathers on the head and, to a varying extent, on the neck and are known as Old World Vultures (or "buzzards" where the use of this name is appropriate - our vultures should NEVER be called buzzards). (Click to see an Old World vulture .) Other birds such as the Marabou Stork, Leptoptilos crumeniferus, also specialize in carrion-feeding. These birds are not, however, characteristic of Northern Europe...
   Lacking either vultures or buzzards, our Australian contact hadn't really thought about carrion-disposal. Obviously on land, the dingo and some of the smaller marsupials are important and probably birds such as the Black Kite, Milvus migrans, participate but they lack the strong adaptations for carrion-feeding seen in the New World Vultures.
   In all areas of the world, gulls also feed on all types of garbage, including dead carcasses. The Bald Eagle is also known to frequent dumps and feed on unpleasant dead material as well. Caracaras (falcon relatives) may also tend to scavenge.
   However, it just doesn't look right to look up and not see our soaring vultures...
       
    Banner - Turkey Vultures, Jenkins Point.
       
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