Bird Lady Blog

May 28, 2010

Turkey Vultures, Common Ravens, and American Crows

Filed under: Munds Park Birding,Vultures Ravens Crows — Munds Park Birding @ 4:24 am

Welcome back to Munds Park to each and every summer resident and weekender – and that includes our large, black summer-visitor bird, the Turkey Vulture.  The Turkey Vulture is one of three large, black birds we see in Munds Park.  The other two species are the Common Raven and the American Crow, both who live here year-round with many of you.  But it is the Turkey Vulture who comes and goes with the weather, just like yours truly.  (Note:  Picture : © Samuel Blanc / www.sblanc.com)

Turkey Vultures are found throughout the United States except for Alaska and Hawaii.  In old Western movies you would see them circling overhead as the cowboys ride through the panoramic landscape and call them “ol’ Buzzards”.  In Munds Park we often see them soaring in a high loop near the intersection of Pinewood Boulevard and the I-17 exit.  Some people consider them ugly birds because their heads are completely free of feathers and instead show only red, bare skin and a white beak.  Turkey Vultures are beautiful in the air, however, barely beating their wings in flight as the glide through the skies seeking out their next meal – a dead animal.  These birds have a keen sense of smell and while soaring can locate carrion below our canopy of Ponderosa Pines.  From above they have a six-foot wing span and a black body.  When they are in flight you can see that the front of their wings is completely black and their tail and the back wing feathers are gray.  In spite of their appearance, Turkey Vultures have many human fans.  At least five annual birding festivals in the U.S. specifically celebrate the return of the Turkey Vulture from their winter migration.

The Common Raven is found generally West of the Mississippi and in part of the Central East.  If you moved to Arizona from the Great Plains or Southern States, the Common Raven would be a new bird for you.  Two feet tall when standing, this bird is coal black with a purple sheen and a stout bill.  In flight it has a wedge-shaped tail, which is a good identifier.  Compared to the American Crow, the Common Raven is quiet and solitary.  It gives out a guttural croak-like sound when it does vocalize.  The Common Raven mostly forages on the ground and will eat carrion, maggots, small mammals, reptiles, frogs, young birds, acorns, and fruit.  You can attract them with peanuts.  Common Ravens are viewed as very intelligent birds.  They have been observed in playful activity, making “toys” of sticks, and they have learned to fly down the middle of a road for long stretches looking for road kill for their next meal.

The American Crow is often heard before seen.  How many of you have tried to take a lazy-day afternoon nap only to be disturbed by a flock of crows cawing to each other from the nearby tree tops?  These birds are smaller than the Common Raven and are much more social.  Some consider them pests, as they thrive around people and can be found not only in our beautiful forests, but in landfills, garbage dumps, parks, athletic fields, and parking lots.  They are not found in the Phoenix metro area, as Common Ravens are.  American Crows are all black, including their legs and bill.  Their throat feathers are smooth when calling, unlike the Common Raven, which has ruffled throat feathers when calling.  Crows were hit very hard by the West Nile Virus, but have been on the rebound.  I personally like crows – they are the kind of birds that make themselves known, seem to openly enjoy their family group, and communicate loudly with each other right in front of us.  With gusto, they make sure you “hear” that you are in Munds Park

What do these three species have in common besides being large and black?  Well, they are monogamous, and the males and females of each species are similar to each other in size and look.  And all three eat carrion, although for the Turkey Vulture carrion is the only thing it eats.  It is usually first to the kill site because of its strong sense of smell, and Common Ravens and American Crows will follow based on sight and sound.

If you missed Article #8, find it at http://www.birdladyblog.wordpress.com, and read up on how you, too, can help prevent birds from flying into your house windows and breaking their necks and your heart.  It is hard enough being a bird without people-made forest reflections luring birds to a window crash and fall.  Let’s all take preventive measures to make windows safer for the birds of Munds Park.  You can reach me at margaretdyekman@cox.net or visit http://www.birdladyblog.wordpress.com.

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3 Comments »

  1. Margaret,
    Thank you for all the informative articles on the birds of Munds Park! My husband and I have several bird feeders in our yard and enjoy watching the birds from our living room, as the entire side of our house is windows. Our children and our grandchildren also love the birds. This past winter, my son excitedly recognized a bird he called a Flicker. He said that a Navajo medicine man told him that that particular bird was sacred.

    Thanks also for the information on preventing the birds from flying into our windows. That’s been a problem for us. I hope to meet you at a birding event this summer.

    Thanks again,

    Joan Graboski

    Comment by Joan Graboski — June 1, 2010 @ 1:44 am | Reply

  2. Margaret,Thank you for all the informative articles on the birds of Munds Park! My husband and I have several bird feeders in our yard and enjoy watching the birds from our living room, as the entire side of our house is windows. Our children and our grandchildren also love the birds. This past winter, my son excitedly recognized a bird he called a Flicker. He said that a Navajo medicine man told him that that particular bird was sacred.
    +1

    Comment by Kelbee Prattico — June 8, 2010 @ 1:08 am | Reply

  3. You should take a look at the bronzes of vultures, ravens, crows, etc by my friend Vicki Banks – http://vulturesculpture.com/ She loves these birds as well as you can see from her work

    Comment by dianesherlock — May 10, 2011 @ 11:44 am | Reply


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