Fink Family Farm Bird List

Fink Family Farm Bird List

The only list I faithfully keep is a list of all the birds seen on our farm since we moved here in 1977. I thought it would be fun to ad...

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Weird Vulture... and more

Okay, so yesterday, August 29, I was hiking Cape Lookout with a friend and we saw a Turkey Vulture fly by us, quite close, several times. I did not get a photo. It had a white ruff around its head. At least, that's what it looked like. The head was partly red (a small part), partly just bald, and partly white... very obvious, visible white. Today, at Baskett Slough, on a side trip from my feed run to Dallas, I (and a different friend) saw another one. This time it was on the ground and I got a photo. What's going on here? This guy has white on more than his head. You can see his companion on the left is a normal looking Turkey Vulture.

A group of Dowitchers at Baskett Slough were closer and easier to photograph. Three in the group of thirty plus were brown instead of gray. I assumed they were juveniles. But now, looking at this guy among the gray, presumably non-breeding plumaged adults, I'm not so sure. Is this an adult in worn breeding plumage? And, if so, why is she (a female, right? because of long bill) dressed this way when everyone else is in gray?

Any tips, replies, helpful comments welcome.

From Baskett Slough we went north to McKee Rd. just off Hwy 99 and saw the 5 Pectoral Sandpipers found by Carol Karlen and Paul Sullivan the day before. That's a great shorebird pond with lots of Least and Westerns and one Yellowlegs although they were too far for my camera to get a picture. One book said Pectorals graze the grassy banks of muddy waterholes, which is exactly what these were doing. A Killdeer wandered around near them providing a welcome size comparison: the Pectorals were about midway in size between the Killdeer and the Western. I love shorebirds that are not the same size as Western Sandpipers. That gives me a fighting chance of identifying them.


  1. The word is in on the white ruffed turkey vulture: it's a juvenile. Brian Sullivan wrote: "right now fresh juveniles have grayish-pink heads with a white hindneck collar. The collar is quickly lost over the coming weeks, when juvs will start to develop more pinkish head coloration." Thank you, Brian! I finally found a picture on the web of a juvenile with a "white hind-collar". But nowhere can I find mention of it. All the books and websites just say juveniles have gray heads. The white hind-collar is apparently a short-lived phenomenon this time of year and I've never noticed it before.

  2. Thanks for posting this, Linda. I had no idea!

  3. Hendrik Herlyn answered my Dowitcher question. "Adults of both species [Long-billed and Short-billed] still in breeding plumage would show more rufous below, and the feathers on their wings and backs would look more mottled, with a mix of worn and new feathers. In both species, the tertials should show more barring. In [a juvenile Short-billed], all feathers look uniformly clean, and there is more of a linear pattern on the tertials, paralleling their outlining pale fringes. In juvenile dowitchers, these tertial markings [linear pattern paralleling outlining pale fringes] are a sure-fire giveaway [for Short-bill]. Long-billed juvies always have plain, unmarked tertials. As far as your bird goes, you can clearly see the unmarked tertials I mentioned above, which makes this a juvenile Long-bill. It is in the company of a bunch of adults that have already moulted into their plain gray winter plumage."

    Thank you, Hendrik! Now I just have to remember where the tertials are...