A Tale of Two Vultures (or Three)

Black vulture (Coragyps atratus).

I have been volunteering at the Ark Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation organization and have been training to clean up the location where many of the birds are kept until ready for release or forever in some cases. Today, I was mostly on my own until the very end. Karen, who runs the Ark, wanted to bring a bird for me to hold while she wrapped its wing. The plan was to arrive around the time I finished cleaning up the pens and feeding everyone.

I have cleaned several times with a friend and more recently under the guidance of Karen. This was to train me to do it on my own. Karen left me mostly alone last week but helped when it came time to feed everyone. Today, I was to do this on my own and if I had remaining troubles, she would help me when she showed up with the injured gull.

One of the first things to be done, is send all the birds out of a couple pens into an enclosed yard so that the pens can be cleaned out. The enclosed yard does not have wiring over the top. The birds in rehabilitation cannot fly, so they aren’t going anywhere. But, the local birds hang out to see if they can sneak some food somehow. The black vultures are the most trouble. They are crafty and smart and will do whatever they can to get some food.

After the pens are cleaned and food is put out, it is time to round up the patients. They are mostly pelicans, one vulture, and one gull. They know the drill. When you go out to round them up, they are usually happy to come back in because they know the buffet has been spread for them.

I got to the part of rounding everyone up and sending them back. I know there is one black vulture under our care, Buzzy, who cannot fly. Usually, when I go into the outside pen to round everyone up, the intruder vultures fly away and the only vulture left is Buzzy because he can’t fly. He likes hanging out with his vulture friends, so reluctantly goes back into the pen. But, he does.

I got the pelicans, gull, and a black vulture into the pen when I noticed that there were two black vultures in there. I checked the board indicating how many vultures we had and it said “1”. The other vulture likely sneaked in while I was rounding everyone up. I had to figure out which vulture was the intruder. I saw the gull attacking a vulture who had gobbled down all the cat food. The cat food is put out for the gull and the vulture in rehab. This vulture had cat food all over its beak. It then ran to the door to get out and it was now closed. Being stressed that it couldn’t leave, it promptly vomited everything it just ate. I knew this was the intruder. I somehow managed to get him out without anyone else escaping in the meantime. With full bellies, it would be harder to get the rest of the patients back into the rehab facility.

I thought I was done and was proud to have accomplished this without help. As Karen was driving up with the injured gull, I noticed that the one black vulture in the pen had flown to the top of the rafters. Hmmm. Buzzy can’t fly. That meant that the one vulture I had was not the correct vulture. I had to go back out and round up Buzzy. I managed to do that and get the vulture into the pen. Now, I had an intruder. Karen said it was likely this vulture had been a prior patient and been released. It knew the drill when round up time came. She indicated it was okay to let him spend the night.

I am particularly enamored with a royal tern that is in rehab. It follows me whenever I am in the pen and sticks close. Today, I was able to feed it a fish from my hand. I hope this little bird has a successful release in the future. It is absolutely adorable. I’m smitten.

A royal tern (Thalasseus maximus) in a rehabilitation center.

There is a gannet that is beautiful. It also took a fish from my hand. It lets me know when I am too close while cleaning the cage. It’s in good spirits, so I think it will be successfully released.

A northern gannet (Morus bassanus) in a rehabilitation center.

The other day, I was at the Guana-Tolomato-Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve and came upon an injured gull. I was in no position to catch it to help it out. It came very close to me, so I believe it was looking for some help. I came back the next day with food and a net hoping to lure it and catch it to help it out. I couldn’t find it. I will keep looking and I have some friends also looking. If the vet can fix that bill, we can rehab the bird.

Injured juvenile Bonaparte’s gull (Chroicocephalus philadelphia).

This post was updated to correct the misidentification of the above gull.

One Comment on “A Tale of Two Vultures (or Three)

  1. Wow, what a cute story about the flying vulture in the pen.

    I hope you find the injured gull.

    On Fri, Dec 18, 2020 at 8:36 PM Linda and Regis travel… wrote:

    > Linda posted: ” Black vulture (Coragyps atratus). I have been volunteering > at the Ark Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation organization and have been > training to clean up the location where many of the birds are kept until > ready for release or forever in some cases. T” >

    Liked by 1 person

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