Tag Archives: turkey vulture migration

Kettle of Vultures

Walking along the road I came across a small kettle of vultures. They had spent the night in an old dead tree and were getting ready to sail off.

All spring and summer the turkey vultures have soared in lazy circles in the sky. They need warm air to soar and it is moving south. They are moving with it.

vulture basking in the sun
On cool mornings vultures spread their wings and tails in the sun to warm up. In a large kettle of vultures there may be half a dozen birds standing with their feathers spread out.

When the vultures arrive in the spring, they seem to appear in ones and twos. They are easy to recognize even as tiny specks from how they drift across the sky.

These carrion eaters do keep a look out for dinner. Eating dead animals is messy as the meat may be spoiled. No feathers on heads and necks helps keep them clean. Some does get onto feathers.

Preening gets bits and pieces off. Smears remain. Vultures spread their wings in the sunlight early in the morning to bake the rest off. It’s a good way to warm up on a frosty morning as well.

individual bird in kettle of vultures
Vultures seem to prefer dead trees to roost in. These older snags have dropped many of their small branches leaving larger ones to accommodate a vulture’s large feet.

Vultures seem to spend most of the day soaring on warm air currents rising up to become clouds. They swoop and circle alone or with other birds. They seem to do some of their soaring for the fun of it.

People describe vultures as black. They are mostly black. The underside of their wings is gray.

Few warm air currents are available over the winter. The vultures gather in groups. The groups drift south to warmer climes so they can continue to soar.

birds in a kettle of vultures
The light color on the underside of a vulture’s wings is not a trick of lighting. The underside of a turkey vulture’s wings are a light gray.

That makes fall a great time to get pictures of vultures. A kettle of vultures roosts on a big, dead tree overnight.

In the morning the vultures wait until the air warms before flying off. They spend the early hours with their wings spread or sitting in the tree. One by one they launch swooping down, then up and around circling and drifting off into the distance.

Read more about turkey vultures in “Exploring the Ozark Hills.”