Vultures: a Mating Pair

The pair of Turkey Vultures that I see in my travels arrived from their southern winter range a couple of weeks ago. As mentioned in last week’s post, an old abandoned barn is a favorite roosting and perching site. I’ve encountered them there twice, warming in the mid-morning sun after a bitterly cold night.

Yesterday morning was my most recent encounter. The male was perched on one end of the roof, the female (shown here) on the opposite end. I stopped the truck a short distance away to observe, thinking about flight images with the blue sky as a backdrop. The female was clear of obstructions and afforded me the best opportunity for action shots, so I focused on her and waited.




Just as I started to lose patience and question my decision to watch vultures rather than search for eagles, the male started to grow restless as well. I was sure the pair was about to take flight. Instead, I had the rare opportunity to witness and document the breeding behavior of vultures from close range.

The initial phase was hilarious and totally unexpected. The restless male started inching his way along the ridge line of the roof, occasionally having to spread his wings and steady himself, like a tight-rope walker. I was sure he was thinking flight, but he had something else in mind: procreation! His approach had been slow, steady and nonchalant, as if he was testing the receptivity of his mate.


She never moved from her original perch, suggesting a willingness to cooperate. And she did. The huge dark wings of the male, spread above his mate and contrasting with a robin-egg-blue backdrop was spectacular.





Photos by NB Hunter (3/24/2018). © All Rights Reserved.


11 thoughts on “Vultures: a Mating Pair

  1. Wow, we don’t see mating turkey vultures too often in life (for me, never…and I’ve seen a lot of TVs). How fantastic that you situated yourself for these incredible photos, Nick.

    • Thanks jet. Your response made me smile because you’re one of the few people I know with the experience to fully appreciate the content of this series. As far as life sightings go, I saw my first vulture in 1967 and have never seen a spectacle like this. I consider it to be yet another of those “once in a lifetime” experiences. “Right place, right time” seems to trump just about everything! and I feel fortunate

  2. You were well rewarded for your patience. Great shots. The right time, right place sure comes through with some amazing stuff at times. I’m so happy you stuck around to record it.

  3. Fascinating images, Nick! What a treat to observe mating vultures. Recently, I have been fortunate to see a flock of more than twenty vultures circling high above the woodlands just behind our home, each evening before all roost in a tall elm tree. This group of vultures has been causing quite a stir in the neighborhood. The flight and landing is fascinating to watch – usually for more than an hour before sunset. For several years now, a pair have called our woodlands their home, though I have no idea if they’ve successfully raised any young. I will patiently wait for the day to arrive where I am rewarded with some great photos. It’s so hard to be patient…

    • Very interesting situation. I’m sure you’ll make the most of it and learn a few things along the way. I’ve never found a nest site and hope you’ll share anything you discover about nesting behavior…would like to fill in that blank! Enjoy

      • I sure will share information and photos if I get them. This pair nests as if they’re on eggs, but I never see any young ones around. As for this group that gathers each evening, it’s great to watch them soar and land. It’s an awkward landing for all of them, but they sure are a sight to see so near our home. Unfortunately, there are so many surrounding trees I can’t get great photos.

  4. Several years ago a group of vultures (7 or 8 in all) decided to roost on roof tops and large Norway spruce trees at the edge of our small, rural village. The site was less than a mile from our house and I could access it from a good, close vantage point. I patterned them, set up just before flight to roost, and had a great experience.

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