Weblog of Leland Rucker
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Bird Ballet Above Martin Acres

A crow (top) gets ready for another pass at the turkey vulture below.

A crow (top) gets ready for another pass at the turkey vulture below.

I was driving down Moorhead, waiting for the heat to come on in the Subaru, the sky flint gray with bursts of clouds running north to south, when I first saw the three black shapes.

Three birds. All pretty large. And it only took a couple of glances away from the wheel to notice that it was two crows dive-bombing a turkey vulture. I pulled over as soon as I could and jumped out of the car with my camera. They were high enough that I couldn’t hear any sounds. I’m not that great a photographer, but I managed a couple of shots, including his one, which shows the larger vulture at the bottom with its white underwing markings. The crow at the top is about half the size of the vulture, with a black undercarriage.

The birds must have found some wind thermal up there in the cold air, and the vulture was soaring in the way vultures do, flapping its wings only when necessary and sweeping across the sky on the rising current. The two crows were flying recklessly around it, coming in from different directions, their wings fluttering as they tried to swoop in close without actually hitting the much larger vulture. (Well. That’s the way it looked. There is documentation of crows attacking turkey vultures, but I’ve never been inside a bird’s brain, so perhaps they were all just enjoying themselves up in the rising air current.)

Their ever-widening circles took them away from me until they were almost out of sight in less than a minute. Jumping back into the car, just thinking about how much fun that (at least) the crows seemed to be having, and marking up my first turkey vulture sighting this early in the year made an otherwise cold, miserable day lighten up considerably.


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