While at a Cleveland Indians ball game I saw a speck moving in the sky far above the stadium. It was soon joined by others and the group soon grew to over 30.
A few lower-flying members of the clan soon appeared and they caught the thermals to ascend effortlessly to join their friends. Their profile and size were unmistakable. It was a “kettle” of turkey vultures.
In flight they’re distinguished from hawks and crows because they soar extensively, holding their wings in a broad “V.” They’re an interesting species:
• The turkey vulture is in the same family as the California condor but got its name due to its resemblance to the wild turkey. They average 2½ feet tall with a 6-foot wingspan. In spite of their size, they only weigh 2-4 pounds.
• Buzzard is a British name for certain hawks that doesn’t include the vulture species.
• Their bright red heads look bald but they’re actually covered by small feathers which helps them stay a little cleaner while feasting on their putrefying critter delicacies. Immature vultures have black noggins.
• Groups of vultures spiraling upward to gain altitude are called “kettles” because the display resembles a boiling pot. Pilots have reported vultures as high as 20,000 feet.
• Perched vultures, often with wings spread, are called a wake. The likely reason is to increase their body temperature after the cool night.
• Turkey vultures are the only scavenger birds that can’t kill their prey. Their feet resemble those of a chicken instead of a hawk or an eagle.
• Vultures have the largest olfactory system of all birds and can smell carrion less than 12-24 hours old and at over a mile away. They can be picky eaters, preferring meat as fresh as possible, and refusing to eat extremely rotted carcasses.
• During the hot summer months, turkey vultures will defecate on their feet to cool them off. If disturbed or harassed, they’ll throw up on whatever is bothering them.
• Turkey vultures don’t build traditional nests, preferring remote, hard-to-reach locations. They’ve been found in such odd places as the floor of a neglected barn, 6 feet below the ground surface in a rotted stump, and in a dead tree with the nest 14 feet below the cavity entrance.
• Turkey vultures have been known to live up to 24 years.
Along the Way:
Ohio hunters checked 16,556 wild turkeys during the April 19 to May 18 wild turkey hunting season and youth wild turkey hunting season. This was down from the 18,391 birds killed during the 2013 seasons.
The youth season resulted in 1,480 birds harvested while the first week of the statewide season saw 8,074 turkeys taken home to family freezers.
The top five counties for the wild turkey harvest were Ashtabula (615), Tuscarawas (493), Coshocton (484), Guernsey (466) and Muskingum (453).
Local harvest numbers were: Allen: 48 (43 in 2013), Hancock: 29 (34); Hardin: 76 (82), Henry: 31 (51), Putnam: 71 (61), Seneca: 140 (154), Wood: 28 (30) and Wyandot: 80 (114).
Wild turkeys were extirpated in Ohio by 1904 and were reintroduced in the 1950s by the Division of Wildlife. Ohio’s first modern-day wild turkey season opened in 1966 in nine counties with hunters bagging just 12 birds.
Step Outside:
• Report turkey and grouse observations to the Division of Wildlife: Register sightings with or without young from May 15 through Aug. 31 at: www.ohiodnr.gov/wildlife/TurkeySurvey.
• Today: Law Enforcement Day, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., HCCL, 13748 Jackson Township 168, Findlay.
• Tomorrow: Trap Shoot, 1 p.m., Mount Blanchard Gun Club, 21655 Delaware Township 186.
• Tomorrow: 4-H Pistol Club, 4 p.m., HCCL, 13748 Jackson Township 168, Findlay.
• Today: No Child Left Indoors sponsored by Pheasants Forever and Whitetails Unlimited, 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m., The Broken Bird Gun Club on Delaware 186 between County 304 and U.S. 30. Kids from 6 to 17 are welcome to this free event. Activities include air rifle, archery, kayaking and more. To register, call 419-722-6771 or email meplesec@coopertire.com.
• June 22: Archers, remember to get this Mixed Animal Target Shoot at Field and Stream Bowhunters on your calendar. 11400 Allen Township 109, Findlay. Call: 419-422-6756.
Abrams is a retired wildlife officer supervisor for the state Division of Wildlife in Findlay. He can be reached at P.O. Box 413, Mount Blanchard, OH 45867-0413 or via email at jimsfieldnotes@aol.com.