Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Turkey Vultures In Los Angeles

Over the past 4 days people all across North America have been counting birds for science. Great Backyard Bird Count.

I submitted seven lists in the Los Angeles Area. They ranged from the seashore at Malibu Lagoon to Griffith Park in the heart of Los Angeles, to the Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Reserve and a parking lot at a strip mall.

Some of the data recorded:
  • 31 brown pelicans at Malibu Lagoon and 24 dead pelicans, one of the theories is that the ocean currents have altered the availability of fish. The fish have gone deeper and brown pelicans are not deep divers. Dolphins push fish to the surface where seabirds can also benefit, but this isn't happening. The brown pelicans that have stayed locally are starving.
  • decreased numbers of double-crested cormorants and white pelicans (other fish-eating bird)
  • spotted towhees, shy birds that I rarely see only in my yard, sited at 6 locations
  • large populations of hummingbirds, including a chick in a nest in my yard
  • migrating turkey vultures

Video of turkey vulture warming in the sun.

Turkey vultures migrate through the Los Angeles area every year. A number of these large black birds roost in a group of tall trees beside the Ventura Fwy near the intersection with Balboa Blvd. As the morning air warms and begins to rise, the turkey vultures circle over the freeway. As they circle, they ride the rising thermals up high into the air. This is called kettling. Turkey vultures eat carrion or dead things. They aren't a threat to humans or pets and they are vital members of the Earth's clean up crew.

Get to know the shape of the turkey vulture as it soars overhead. These birds travel all the way down into South America to breed during the winter and then return. When I see the "TV"s soaring over the freeway in the morning, I always wonder: Where have they come from? I know some of them have been places I would love to see. And where are they going?


Treasures From The Trunk said...

Thank you for respecting turkey vultures. They are my favourite birds. They are completely misunderstood as with all vultures. They are incredible to see up close. Where can I take my children to see and learn about vultures and their important role in the world? Any feedback is appreciated- Thanks, Justin Walker
La Crescenta CA.

Unknown said...

I just came across a pair feeding on a squirrel carcass in Mt. Washington. It was an awesome sight.

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

I found this blog after spotting a turkey vulture circling over Libbit park in Encino just one exit away from Balboa Blvd. after circling the park I saw him do exactly what you described- kettling up high over the freeway. Such a treat to see this beautiful bird. Thanks for your blog post.