A Not Totally Unexpected Black Vulture

I’ve noticed that many blogs post what they think will be the next 10 birds they’ll find in a certain area.  And they usually rank them in the order they might be seen.

I wish I had made a ranking for Johnson County.  I’ve been telling Mike for sometime the next species I’ll see in Johnson County will be a Black Vulture. I have seen sporadic reports on eBird of Black Vultures but we all know those must be taken with a grain of salt. But after Don Gorney told me he had seen one in Southern Shelby County I knew it was just a matter of time.

But it wasn’t easy. Since moving to the area in late 2012 I have counted 620 Turkey Vultures in Johnson County.  And I bet I have looked at almost every one knowing that eventually one would be a Black Vulture.

And Wednesday it finally happened. We were supposed to go back to Illinois for the holiday but our plans fell through.  Since I had already taken the day off I decided to head to Johnson County. And as luck had it I caught one in the distance flying with a Turkey Vulture west of Johnson County Park.  It was distant but I did get some ID photos.

First look, something didn’t appear right. The tail was too short for a Turkey Vulture. Upper right-hand bird. Johnson County Park 11/25/15
It turned a little and the white outer primaries jumped out. Johnson County Park 11/25/15
A little closer and I was pretty certain now it was a Black Vulture from shape and color. I just needed it to turn. Johnson County Park 11/25/15
And that did it. White primaries and short-tailed! Even the dark head is noticeable here. Johnson County Park 11/25/15
Flying to the west not to be seen again. Johnson County Park 11/25/15
For comparison, a Turkey Vulture later in the day showing the longer tail and silvery flight feathers. Johnson County Park 11/25/15
Even banking a Turkey Vulture shows the silvery flight feathers. Johnson County Park 11/25/15

That makes just the 5th new species I’ve seen in Johnson County this year. It’s always good to add a new species to your main list. But we all know after a couple of years new species are hard to come by on your regular patch. I still have some species I should see even for a mainly water-less area.

I think I will make one of those next 10 lists!

Extra Photos on day:

Even though I’m pretty sure it’s a released bird, it’s still good-looking. Ring-necked Pheasant – Atterbury FWA 11/25/15
And here doing the 2-step. Atterbury FWA 11/25/15



3 Replies to “A Not Totally Unexpected Black Vulture”

  1. Very helpful explanation of black vulture ID. I with this bird. I got some great photos of them at DePauw Nature Park in Greencastle…but that is a very special place for vultures.

    1. Thanks Kim. With a little practice separating Black Vultures from Turkey Vultures, even at a distance, is pretty straightforward. And when it comes to ID’ing a species straightforward is something I like! And I couldn’t resist the pheasant photo when he walked right in front of the car.

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