The late Heather Liebman took this July photo of two juvenile Turkey Vultures that she spotted near her home in Stallion Springs. Heather was a registered nurse, a talented wildlife photographer and an amazing person in general, and she is still missed by her loving family and many friends.
Turkey Vultures (Cathartes aura) will forage around human activity, but prefer to nest in isolated areas with the minimal presence of people. In our area, they most often nest in large rocky outcroppings or towering stone cliffs, frequently underneath a rock overhang that provides some protection.
They have also been found to prefer locations that are 10 degrees Fahrenheit or more cooler than their surroundings, so their nests may be on the shadier aspect of a slope or canyon wall.
Turkey Vultures don't build much of a nest, it is more of a scrape or shallow depression in a sheltered location. If the nest site proves successful with little disturbance, a pair of vultures may use it for a decade or more.
Turkey Vultures lay from one to three eggs in a clutch, so the two vultures in this photo are typical of a vulture brood. The nesting process is fairly lengthy — incubation takes 30 to 40 days, and then the nestlings remain in the nest for another two months or more. Vulture parents are quite attentive, and feed their young until they can fly confidently and follow their parents to carrion feeding sites. The young birds have a grey head, which becomes red as they mature.
The Nuwä (Kawaiisu or Paiute) word for Turkey Vulture is wukumahaazi, pronounced wuh-kuh-ma-HAA-zi.
NATURAL SIGHTINGS is a regular feature of the Tehachapi News edited by Jon Hammond which showcases photos of the natural beauty that enhances the quality of life in Tehachapi. If you have a good quality image of plants, animals, insects, trees, birds, weather phenomena, etc., taken in the Tehachapi area, you may submit it to the Tehachapi News for possible publication. Submissions can be dropped by the News office in the form of a print or CD, or sent by email to: firstname.lastname@example.org.