Living the Scientific Life (Scientist, Interrupted)

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[Mystery bird] Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura, photographed at Brazos Bend State Park, Needville, Texas. [I will identify this bird for you in 48 hours]

Image: Joseph Kennedy, 28 November 2007 [larger view].

Nikon D200, Kowa 883 telescope with TSN-PZ camera eyepiece 1/750s f/8.0 at 1000.0mm iso400.

Please name at least one field mark that supports your identification.

This challenging-to-ID-from-this-image mystery bird has a special foraging ability that other members of this family lack. Can you tell me what that is?

The Turkey Vulture is one of the few bird species that has a highly-developed olfactory sense. Turkey Vultures can locate hidden carcasses by scent alone, while most other vultures are sight hunters and rely upon actually seeing a carcass, or they rely upon observing the behaviors of other soaring scavengers who have located a dying animal to cue them in to the presence of a carcass.

Review all mystery birds to date.

Comments

  1. #1 EyeNoU
    July 1, 2010

    Turkey Vulture?

  2. #2 EyeNoU
    July 1, 2010

    Turkey Vulture?

  3. #3 Bob O'H
    July 1, 2010

    I guess Joseph’s first thought was “shit, and his second was “ah well, it’ll make a great mystery bird for Grrl.”

    It’s not a hooper swan, I can tell you this much.

  4. #4 Tabor
    July 2, 2010

    I don’t know what it is, but I love the photo!

  5. #5 PattyP
    July 2, 2010

    This mystery bird is one i think i actually see around in SE Pennsylvania – I agree with EyeNoU on the Turkey Vulture, a large blackish-brown bird with silvery underwings. And the specialized foraging feature – which its Black Vulture cousins don’t have – is a ability to find carrion by scent as well as sight.

    And they really do look like wild turkeys when they are on the ground.

  6. #6 EyeNoU
    July 4, 2010

    I have been to the park where this photo was taken, and see Turkey Vultures there often. The coloration, and the previous few posts of GrrlScientist were my clues. BTW, BBSP is a nice stop if you are in the Houston, Texas, area. You will most likely get to see a few alligators and a myriad of other creatures.

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