The Bird Book/American Vultures

The Bird Book by Chester A. Reed
American Vultures: Family Cathartidse


Vultures are peculiarly formed birds of prey, having a bare head and neck, a lengthened bill strongly hooked at the end for tearing flesh, and long, strong, broad wings upon which they float in the air for hours at a time without any visible flapping. They are scavangers and do great service to mankind by devouring dead animal matter, that, if allowed to remain, would soon taint the atmosphere. Their eyesight and sense of smell is very acute. They do not, except in very unusual cases, capture their prey, but feed upon that which has been killed or died of disease.

Ashy gray

CALIFORNIA VULTURE. Gymnogyps calif ornianus.

Range. Apparently now restricted to the coast ranges of Calitornia, casually inland to Arizona, and formerly to British Columbia.

This large bird, which weighs about 20 pounds, measures about 4 feet in length, and has an expanse of wings of about 10 feet. Its plumage is blackish with lengthened lanceolate feathers about the neck, and with the greater wing coverts broadly tipped with grayish white (in very old birds). The birds are very rare in their restricted range and are becoming scarcer each year, owing to their being shot and their nests robbed. While the eggs are very rarely found and only secured at a great risk, they are not as unobtainable as many suppose, as may be seen from the fact that one private collection contains no less than six perfect specimens of the eggs and as many mounted birds. These birds lay but a single egg, placing it generally in caves or recesses in the face of cliffs, hundreds of feet from the ground, and often in inaccessable locations. The eggs, are of an ashy gray color and measure about 4.45 x 1.55.



325. TURKEY VULTURE. Cathartes aura septentrionalis.

Range. America, from New Jersey on the Atlantic coast, Manitoba and British Columbia, south to southern South

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America, wintering in the southern half of the United States.

The plumage of this small Buzzard (length 30 inches) is blackish brown, the naked head being red. It is very common in the southern and central portions of its range, where it frequents the streets and door yards picking up any refuso that is edible. It is a very graceful bird while on the wing, and can readily be identified when at a distance from the fact that, when in flight, the tips of the wings curve upward. The two eggs which constitute a set are laid upon the ground between large rocks, in hollow stumps, under logs, or between the branching trunks of large trees, generally in large woods. They frequently nest in communities and again, only a single pair may be found in the woods. Its nesting season ranges from March until June in the different localities. The eggs are creamy or bluish white, spotted and blotched with shades of brown, and with fainter markings of lavender. Size 2.70 x 1.85.

,326. BLACK VULTURE. Catharista uruba.

Range. More southerly than the preceding; north regularly to North Carolina and southern Illinois, and west to the Rocky Mountains.

This species is about the same size, or slightly smaller than the Turkey Vulture; its plumage is entirely black as is also the naked head, and bill. In the South Atlantic and Gulf States, the present species is even more abundant than the preceding, and might even be said to be partially domesticated. The nesting habits are the same as those of the Turkey Buzzard but their eggs average longer and the ground color is pale greenish or bluish white rather than creamy. They are spotted and blotched the same. Size 3.00 x. 2.00.





N. W. Swayne