Friday, April 8, 2011

The "birds and the bees" and the buzzards

Sunday afternoon the intercom in the office beeped. Barb, a volunteer, had seen two Turkey Vultures in the yard past the parking lot and they appeared to be fighting. I’ve never seen Turkey Vultures at WINC although I have seen them soaring over the gravel pits north of here. Once I even saw about a dozen sitting in a small tree just east of Hwy C and Hwy 18. I did a double-take to see those big black birds in that 10 foot tall tree. It would have made a great Halloween card. My office window had a different angle of sight so I went to the other window to see what was going on.

I usually park my van directly in front of the office so we can watch our local Cooper’s Hawk hunt House Sparrows under it. (Another blog for another day) Between my van and a spruce tree I saw the Turkey Vultures pacing back and forth. They would walk past each other, going out of my view and then back into view. Although unusual behavior, they did not seem to be acting aggressive towards each other. One had its feathers all fluffed out and its wings held out in a loose curve around its body. It strutted rather bow-legged as it walked. Hmmm. I’ve seen that posture before with the domestic ducks and geese I used to keep as pets. Have you ever seen a male tom turkey displaying- puffing up, holding his wings a little out, and kind of strutting and dancing for the hens? The vultures would disappear behind the tree from my view for a couple minutes, and then wander back into view.

In 2009 WINC rescued this Turkey Vulture that had gotten caught up in someone's dilapidated wire fence. Try to remember to replace, repair, or remove netting, fencing and string that could potentially entangle birds and other small animals whenever possible, especially overnight when they are less likely to be in use.
I beeped back to the hospital. I asked Barb what she had seen to make her think they were fighting. She described the sight and added that, “One of them was even standing on the other.” My guess was right. They weren’t fighting, they were mating. I then explained the “birds and the bees” of large birds. In most species of birds, the male mounts (stands) on the female back. She arches her tail up as far over her back as she can. The male bends his tail under the female so their privates can meet. It takes maybe a minute or two and done. Separate, dance and strut. Repeat. Multiple times. I had the R rated view but Barb had the full XXX version from the kitchen window. They were out front about 30 minutes and then flew off to the southwest.

You just never know what you will see around here!

Guest Blogger L.R.

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