Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Vultures in the winter?

Sunday afternoon turned out bright and sunny, so we drove down for a short walk on Boundary Bay. As we neared the parking lots at Centennial Beach, we saw two mature eagles posed nicely in a tall tree. We stopped.

Two black specks with white heads

Walking closer and zooming in. Regal birds.

Before we were able to get much closer, the pair lifted off and flew across the field to a distant stand of trees.  As they went, they disturbed another large bird sitting alone; the three of them swung around and around the new chosen resting place for a while, like a dog turning three times in his bed before settling down for a nap.

Housing, bare trees, and just visible, three large flying objects.

At home, something about that third bird struck us as a bit odd, so we blew up our photos to the maximum.

Not an eagle. A turkey vulture.

This is an eagle. Big, puffy head, solid body.

Turkey vulture. Small, bare head, thinner body. Black wing linings, dark grey flight feathers. Splayed primaries.

There were at least a pair of these vultures; we saw two over the marshland, again, not recognizing them.

They're not supposed to be here; turkey vultures breed in BC, but winter from California on south, or on the east coast around Florida.  Maybe, as our local climate warms, the range may be shifting northwards. Or it may just be that Tsawwassen has always been hospitable; it's our banana belt, after all. Whatever the reason, we'll be looking for them in the future.

*UPDATE; Several of the commenters think they're immature bald eagles. They may be right.


  1. So envious of your view - and your vision

  2. First, very cool! =) Second, I'm SO not a good birder, so feel free to ignore this question, but that vulture shot seems to show yellow feet, which makes me think golden eagle or immature bald eagle? No?

  3. That doesn't seem quite right for Turkey Vulture to me. The head just doesn't look right and the feet seem way too yellow. I'd expect more extensive silver in the underwing as well.

    It is really hard to tell, but it may be an immature Bald Eagle.

  4. To my eye, your vulture is an immagure bald eagle!

    Carolyn H.

  5. You may be right; I thought it was an immature bald eagle, at first. It wasn't until we looked at the photos that we realized the head wasn't right for any of the eagles we see, nor was the general shape; too small in the body, something about the way they flew. In another of our photos, basically just a silhouette, the wings are held in the classic "V" shape; this is the way they were soaring over the marsh.

    I found a photo of a turkey vulture with the "yellow" feet. (The description says "reddish legs". It would depend on the light, I guess.)

    vulture in flight.

    But, as I said, you could be right. We'll see if we can find them again another day.


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