72-B-2015 Turkey Vulture

STATUS
Accepted
DATE VOTING COMPLETED
1ST ROUND
7-0
HOW MANY OBSERVED?
1
DATE SIGHTING OCCURRED
DATE REPORT PREPARED
REPORTER
Robert Miller
OTHER OBSERVERS
Kathy Lopez, Gladys Miller
LOCALITY OF OBSERVATION
Deer Flat NWR--East Dike Road Trail
HABITAT WHERE THE BIRD WAS OBSERVED
Marshland/Riparian – Tall cottonwoods to west, marsh to the east.
SIGHTING DURATION, CONDITIONS, and EQUIPMENT USED
Cold (18 degrees F), light breeze from south, partly cloudy
DID YOU TAKE NOTES?
Yes, another day after the observation
DID YOU CONSULT A FIELD GUIDE OR OTHER REFERENCE WORK?
Yes, another day after the observation
WHICH GUIDE(S) OR REFERENCE(S): DID YOU CONSULT?
Sibley Field Guide to bird of Western North America, Hawkwatch International website.
DESCRIPTION OF THE BIRD(s)
Flew directly overhead at low-medium altitude. Exhibited some rocking side to side. Under wind coverts were dark black and narrowed to a near point at the wrists of the bird. Uniform grayish secondaries (as viewed from below). Solid back tail. Showed “fingers” in outer primary feathers. Very small head profile.
BEHAVIOR OF THE BIRD(s)
Direct point to point glide overhead.
HOW AND WHEN DID YOU POSITIVELY IDENTIFY THE BIRD, AND WHAT CLINCHED THE IDENTIFICATION FOR YOU?
I identified it as Turkey Vulture during observation, yet was unwilling to immediately call it based upon the rarity of this species here in winter. Once I identified as a Turkey Vulture I focused my attention to the head to attempt to see red, but did not. However, my extended focus on the head did confirm it was small in proportion to the body and consistent with the Turkey Vulture. I also wanted to look up other species which I am less familiar with to ensure I was not mis-identifying the bird.
HOW DID YOU ELIMINATE SIMILAR SPECIES? WHAT WERE THEY?
I spent one hour online researching other alternatives, some of which I have never seen. I studied many Golden Eagle photos, the species I felt was most likely to be mis-identified. Hawkwatch International’s website offers many helpful photos. I was unable to find any photos which matched the uniform gray secondaries. Also, the shape of the underwing coverts and head shape were all inconsistent with my observations. I also checked on dark-morph Ferruginous Hawk and dark-morph Rough-legged Hawk (neither of which I have seen before), and found I could easily eliminate these species based on overall shape and plumage characteristics. Lastly, I double checked my personal photos of a rare dark-morph Northern Harrier, easily eliminating this species from consideration.
WHAT IS YOUR EXPERIENCE WITH THIS (AND SIMILAR) SPECIES?
I am very familiar with this species through my work as a hawkwatcher and raptor bander.
DESCRIBE YOUR GENERAL BIRDING EXPERIENCE
Raptor Biologist for the Intermountain Bird Observatory. Have worked as a student and then professional ornithologist since 2009.
WERE PHOTO(S), VIDEO, AND/OR AUDIO OBTAINED FROM THIS SIGHTING?
None

FIRST ROUND VOTING:

Cliff Weisse
Accept

Description supports the identification of Turkey Vulture

Shirley Sturts
Accept

description supports the identification - other possible species eliminated

Doug Ward
Accept

Combination of distinctive characteristics (behavior, structure, and plumage) being noted, as well as observer experience, leads me to “accept” this record.

Dave Trochlell
Accept

I was convinced that this was a Turkey Vulture, a species that has been showing up in Oregon in recent winters.

Jay Carlisle
Accept

convincing description

Charles Swift
Accept

A good description and I think not unprecedented in winter in southwest Idaho.

Darren Clark
Accept

Observer experience, combined with careful description supports the identification of this bird as Turkey Vulture