Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Turkey Vulture Tree--Cathy Johnson

Turkey Vultures, Early

I just love these bits of serendipity! J. had to have the truck worked on this morning, and I went out to pick him up--it was somewhat earlier than we're usually up and about. We drove through the park on the way home, and I got to see the vulture tree, just FULL of the big ...birds waiting for their wings to dry enough to fly! There were already kettles of them in the sky, but I ran him on home and hurried back.

I was in luck, I got to sketch the tree pretty well laden with them...and just kept sketching till they had all dried their wings and flown. I'd lost my pencil sharpener at the Art Crawl last week and the Prismacolor black was fairly dull...I added a few more details with my Micron Pigma .01 pen, then used watercolor pencils when I got home to punch it up a bit.

I've always loved these big birds--there's a wonderful tale in Abenaki about the role they play in history--How Buzzard Got His Feathers, though there are similar tales in many tribes, including Seneca and Iroquois.* And of course, without them we'd be up to our eyebrows in carrion. (Not a pleasant thought!)

You can learn much more about them, their habitat, range, eating habits and more on Wikipedia and specifically in my area from The Missouri Conservationist.

They lack a voicebox--that explains the eerie silence. They're related to storks and flamingoes--they're not raptors.

And of course there IS always that moment when you wonder what they know that you don't. Sometimes you don't
want to know!

*And by the way, HERE is one version of that story!


  1. Fabulous opportunity and fabulous sketch!!

  2. Thank you, Teri! It was a wonderful opportunity and I wasn't about to let it pass...

  3. Fabulous indeed! The story is wonderful; I'll think of it whenever I see them soaring high in the sky now. I love seeing the different buzzard profiles, but that tree is especially nice the way it arches into the sky.

  4. Thanks for the post and the story, Kate! I will think of that every time I see a buzzard now. Love the sketch too.

  5. I have heard of vultures, but not turkey vultures. Are they the same ? Your image makes them look very menacing. (But it is a great drawing) Are there always that many on a tree.


We'd love to hear from you, your questions, comments, observations! Please feel free to comment, feedback is important to us.