Turkey vultures feeding on a coyote carcass in Centennial Woods (Burlington)

Harbingers of spring

A couple weeks ago at the Field School, Crow’s Path staff, David brought in a road kill coyote and learned alongside the kiddos how to skin an animal. He kindly offered up the carcass and I put it out in the woods with a game cam. The weather over the last week has been seasonably warm. And that all too glorious sunshine hitting the hearth has brought forth a bouquet of delightful – though sometimes unpleasant – smells. Turkey vultures time their migration to coincide with the melting snow, which exposes a glut of dead animals who didn’t quite make it through winter. Unlike most birds, turkey vultures have a keen sense of smell (source), and can readily pick up the faintest whisps of putrescence.

On the game cam, it appears as though a single adult turkey vulture (breeding adults have red heads) discovered the carcass. Later, there’s another pair of breeding adults along with a group of at least 4 juveniles. There are also a pair of ravens in the area and at least one of them was feeding right alongside the turkey vultures. Pretty interesting to watch some of the territorial displays by the adults. The carcass had mostly been scavenged within 10 hours! Their feeding was only interrupted briefly by a couple of people discovered the carcasses (and seemed both intrigued and aghast).

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