Turkey Vultures and Buzzard Hank
I was on my way to meet friends for breakfast Saturday morning, riding the path that bisects CU’s east campus approaching the location called the Confluence, when something caught my eye across the lake to the west.
It was this group of turkey vultures perched high in the trees letting the morning sun warm their wings. I count 13-14 of these wonderful, huge birds. When I first saw them, at least four were opening their wings to the sun’s warmth.
I was reminded that a large group of vultures used to roost in an old cottonwood on the other side of the bike path until it fell in a storm several years ago and is now a pile of old wood.
I am always watching for turkey vultures , and I have seen a lot of them high in the air, especially on the trails near the East Boulder Rec Center, but this is my first good group sighting this year. I was late and didn’t get to spend enough time with this bunch, but what a sight. Vulture wingspans range from four to six feet, and even from this distance, you can see how enormous “buzzards” really are.
Vultures are common migratory visitors in the spring and fall along the Front Range, and provide a valuable recycling function by cleaning up carrion and carcasses otherwise left to the elements. The bald head which many consider “ugly,” is actually an adaptation to its diet, since it has to put its head inside rotting meat and feathers are bacteria-prone.
When I was a student at St. Paul’s College in Concordia, Mo. I was skinny (!), and somehow I got the nickname Henry Hawk, after a comic-book character at the time, and then Buzzard, and finally Buzzard Hank. I found this photo, circa 1966, of Buzzard Hank trying his best to look like one. Do you notice the resemblance?