Turkey Vultures Galore

Yesterday I travelled around northeast Alberta with Dr. Wayne Nelson, a retired Alberta Fish and Wildlife biologist, checking on Turkey Vultures. I had contacted Dr. Nelson earlier this year to report a pair of Turkey Vultures at an abandoned building 30 miles or so north of our house. He emailed back to ask if I’d like to join him on his July travels checking abandoned farm buildings for nests, and I said yes!

We left at 10:30 am, and our first stop was at the house I reported. Unfortunately, nothing was there. We stopped at five other sites where vultures had been reported this year, and also at some nesting sites reported in previous years, but disappointed again!

While driving to the next spot, we saw four adult vultures, but no chicks. Then, at the next abandoned building we visited, I was very happy and surprised to have my first looks at two young Turkey Vultures! Their hissing is quite loud and if you don’t know where it is coming from, it is quite unnerving, and not many things scare me.

The next two buildings we visited each had two young vultures. Many of the buildings had Barn Swallows nests in them, and one had an Eastern Phoebe nest. These old buildings are very important if they can sustain Turkey Vultures, Barn Swallows, and Eastern Phoebes nests all under one roof.

In total, Dr. Nelson and I saw seven adult Turkey Vultures and six young vultures. Dr. Nelson estimates that the chicks are about 35 to 40 days old. Today was just a scouting trip, and in a few day Dr. Nelson will go back with a licensed Turkey Vulture bander and wing tag them. Thank you very much to Dr. Nelson for taking me along.

I had a wonderful time looking at the vultures, and hope to do it again some time!

My first look at young Turkey Vultures,

At the second house with chicks,

An adult,

A house with a Turkey Vulture in the background,

Here is a video of the vultures hissing,

Also, Dr. Nelson is imprinting a young Peregrine Falcon for falconry, and it rides along in his car, in a box. Before yesterday I had never seen a Peregrine Falcon in real life, so it was very entertaining having one in the backseat.

The falcon is 26 days old,

Feathers on Friday

The Barn Swallows and some Tree Swallows nesting around our yard fledged yesterday, so it has been very entertaining to watch them today.

Tree Swallows on a power line last night,

Fledgling Barn Swallow taking a rest from flying,


I read about Canadian Barn Swallows being designated in May as threatened, in Pat Bumstead’s Bird Canada blog post here. Pat writes,

At the spring meeting of the [Canadian Government’s] Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) held in Charlottetown, PEI May 1-6, 2011, Threatened status was recommended for two more species of songbirds – Eastern Meadowlark and Barn Swallow. The addition of these two common species draws further attention to the plights faced by grassland birds and aerial insectivores.

And today there was an article about declining Barn Swallow populations in British Columbia. Since reading Pat’s post and the article, I count myself very lucky that three pairs of Barn Swallows are nesting in our yard. In fact, we have had Barn Swallows make nests almost every year, over the front door and various windows.

This pair of Barn Swallows has a nest above the light fixture by our front door this summer,

I’ve taken an extension ladder to climb up and peek into the nest. The last time I checked the nest there were four eggs, but the female might have laid more. I’ll have to check again soon. The birds don’t like it very much when we go in or out the door, they dive bomb me very frequently.

Feathers on Friday

If you would like to join me for Feathers on Friday, please put the link to your blog post in the comments and I will add a link to my post.

A pair of Barn Swallows on a power line in our yard, the female on the left and the male on the right,

This pair of Barn swallows has made a nest over my brothers’ bedroom window,