Timiskaming Birds Forum


Possibility of Black Vultures in Timiskaming

Last post 05-24-2017 10:03 AM by Mike Werner. 1 replies.
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  • 05-24-2017 10:00 AM

    Possibility of Black Vultures in Timiskaming

    This message was sent to me by email from my friend Cliff Reuer yesterday.  Although Cliff is not an "avid" birder, he is familiar with most of our local species, and has good instincts for rarities.

    "You asked me to keep you informed if I saw anything interesting in nature and this morning was one of those occasions. We were driving south on Hwy. 569, the Hilliardton Highway, along the wooded stretch north of the Hilliardton Marsh and south of Borden's Corners, when we saw a number of very large birds perched just off the road with one of them holding its wings wide open. I had never seen anything like that before, so we turned around and went back and they were still there, doing the same thing, so we got a photo with the phone, as best as we could. You can clearly see the one in the tree holding its wings open and there are 2 others visible in the shot. There was a 4th out of the frame on the left. That one held his wings wide open without flinching for a long time. I had no idea what kind of birds they were except that they sure looked like vultures to me, without the red heads, ugly faces and white under the wings. These were very dark with no white visible at all, but the same small heads as vultures.

    So I came home and started looking for possibilities and concluded that they were black vultures and since they showed their range to be south of Lake Erie, but also mentioned that they were heading further north, we may be the first in our area to see these birds. They were huge and I couldn't find any other bird that would fit, but I'm open to suggestions if you have any ideas."


  • 05-24-2017 10:03 AM In reply to

    Re: Possibility of Black Vultures in Timiskaming

    Thanks for the heads-up Cliff.  I've put the word out to the local birding community. After this alert we will all be more vigilant for this species in Timiskaming.  Black Vultures have been observed in southern Ontario every year now for the last number of years, so it is not out of the realm of possibility for some to turn up here at some point.

    Regarding your identification, I'm not sure if you were aware that there is a fairly obvious distinctive feature of Black Vultures that is visible on the undersides of the open wings - the last dozen or so primary wing feathers (the ones out at the tip of the wing) are almost white, forming a very distinctive underwing pattern.  I do not see this in your photo.  It could just be that they did not look like typical Turkey Vultures because you were seeing them in silhouette-type lighting conditions.  Even in that backlit situation, the whitish ends on the undersides of the wings of Black Vultures would be clearly visible.

    On the other hand, if these birds were facing away from you, both species would look all black from the back, especially if their heads were down a bit and therefore not fully visible from behind. The back of the head on a Turkey Vulture is often fully feathered and black - the bare red skin is often restricted to the front of the face only, though this is quite variable. 

    Once again, thanks for notifying me.  We'll all keep an attentive watch. If any turn up, I'll let you know.

    Cheers, and keep your eyes looking up!
    Michael Werner

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