A friend of ours who phones from time to time with news of her birds called this afternoon to tell us that she had a baby vulture walking around in her back yard.  I asked her to describe it and she said it was black with a gray head, but it was mostly white.  I said no way.  She said come over and see for yourself.

By the time we got there, the bird had retreated deep into the taxus hedge at the back of her property.  I waded in carefully and saw the bird in the deep shadows perched on an old abandoned tractor tire.  It was indeed a baby Turkey Vulture and it was indeed mostly white.

This bird should clearly still have been in the nest.  It was covered with white down, what banders call the “local” plumage since it never gets very far from the nest.   The black wing feathers are molting in, but the tail feathers are only just emerging from their sheaths.  However, the head and beak definitely belong to a vulture.

Fledgling Turkey Vulture

Fledgling Turkey Vulture

Our friend’s place has an abandoned barn that we knew was a vulture roost.  They fly in and out of the hayloft window and can frequently be seen perched on the windowsill and on the roof peak of the barn.  I checked out this barn a year ago for the Ohio Breeding Bird Atlas program.   I found half a dozen active Barn Swallow nests in the lower story and three vultures roosting in the hayloft, but no sign of a nest.  I guess I should have kept checking.

Our theory is that the baby bird took the big leap a bit too soon, as baby birds sometimes do and now finds itself unable to reverse the process.  I suspect that the parents are aware of the situation and are just waiting for the humans to clear off so they can attend to the baby.  I advised our friend to call the raptor center at Glen Helen, near Yellow Springs for advice.  They said to put the baby back in the barn.  A plan is in hand to do just that.  The lady at the raptor center said they have several instances of straying Turkey Vulture chicks each summer and putting them back seems to work best.

This was the high point of the day, but we had already had an exciting morning watching the young Ospreys at the Mound Road access point at Caesar Creek Lake.  We had good views of all three of the young birds perched close by and in the air.  The birds were judged to be juveniles by the white tips on the back feathers, scapulars and wing coverts.  We were even able to see the orange irises of two of the birds.  These will turn yellow later in the year.  There was no sign of the adults; they may be on their way to Venezuela already.  The young will probably hang around the nest site for another month or so until they realize they are on their own.  Then they, too, will head south, following a routh that they were born with.

Juvenile Osprey. Caesar Creek State Park, Ohio

Juvenile Osprey. Caesar Creek State Park, Ohio