Saturday, August 14, 2010

Black Vulture in Houlton

Yesterday, Eric Hynes at Maine Audubon sent me an eBird alert regarding a Black Vulture that was reported at Houlton on 10 August. The vulture was apparently seen at the Tim Horton's donut shop (a favored re-caffienation spot for road-weary northbound birders) located just off Interstate 95! I followed up with the reporter, Noel Dodge and he obligingly sent along a couple of photos of the bird with these details:

"...The vulture flew down (moving west) across the road and perched on the
light. I saw that it was a black vulture as it flew, since it was only 15-20 meters away and then I drove over there and took some photos from my truck before having to move so as to not block traffic. As I photographed the bird stretched its wings up over its back showing the white wing tips well. A very cooperative bird!"

His attached photos (cropped a bit) are reproduced here. Pertinent features that help make the ID and separate the Black Vulture from the more likely Turkey Vulture include: black head, shorter straight bill, whitish legs, shorter tail and overall black plumage with no brown tones.

The white in the outer primaries is visible in this wing-up shot.

It appears this bird's head skin is relatively smooth and the bill isn't prominently two-toned which suggests this bird is a juvenile. As a youngster, driver inexperience would explain why the bird ended up so far north of its normal range.

By my recollection this is the fourth or fifth Black Vulture reported in Maine this year and only the second ever to be found in northern Maine.