Can you imaging my surprise yesterday when Steve calls me on the cell phone as I'm sitting at my computer and says "GET OUT HERE!"   ….I sez  "GET OUT WHERE?"…..he sez  "THE DRIVEWAY"

I run outside and ask whats up and he points to the sky and says "BIRDS"…  OMG there were at least 50 turkey vultures soaring ever so gracefully over our Douglas Fir trees (Cayennes old nesting ground).

I ran into the house and grabbed my camera. For the next 45 minutes I stood in the driveway until dark, taking photos of these magestic creatures.  I actually had no idea  what kind of bird I was taking photos of until I got them loaded in the computer

But one thing I knew…these modern day pterodactyls were enormous!!

At Twenty-five to 32 inches long, with a wingspan around 6 feet a healthy adult turkey vultures weighs in at approximately 5 to 6 pounds.  The word BREATHTAKING is the only way I can describe the scene because I had to literally catch my breath a number of times as I gazed at the spectacle above me.

Once I got my photos up I then had to decipher what they were.  They are so very close to a  Golden Eagle in silhouette, and I had no color in these images from the time of day they were shot, so the  white banding on the vultures was absent in my photos.  A quick inquiry on one of my Birding ID groups on Flickr gave me the answer. 

The Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura)




ABOVE:  This is not my photo but a good way to see the coloring on this magestic bird

There were so many birds I couldn't get them all in one shot.  The currents must have been perfection as the vultures caught the draft and climbed higher and higher….never once drifting away from the invisible perimiter of our fir tree clump.  The silence in the air was deafening…almost surreal.   I expected to hear screeches or some sort of sound (not yet knowing these were vultures) . Once identified I read that vultures don't have voiceboxes!! They can only hiss.


As the sun started to drop in the sky, the vultures settled in on our trees for the night.  I could hardly sleep and set my alarm to catch them as they woke up with my 400 telephoto lens….but alas the fog was as thick as pea soup!!!  I'm not disappointed though.  I am thrilled after 12 years of living in the city of Portland that such a sight could be witnessed from my own yard.  From my research it sounds like this group may be gathering to migrate south, as they were not hovering for prey.

Speaking of Vultures…I dug into my archives to show you these from our Botswana Africa trip. They made my garden variety vultures look dwarf in comparison!!

The garbage disposals of the savannah!

Researching I found out that a defining trait to vultures are the "finger" that form from the feather tips as they fly

A happy group in Botswana , looking out for the latest kill.


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About Sandra Miller

My name is Sandra Miller and I love to ART. I enjoy my studio and home in beautiful Portland Oregon with my husband Steve and our charming Finnish Lapphund dog named Ihana