Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura) Drying Its Wings


This photo was taken a couple of weeks ago on the New Jersey side of the Delaware River, just after dawn. The landowner, a bird enthusiast, recently built this large structure (800 pounds!) as a nesting stand for a pair of osprey that frequent the area, but the osprey haven't used it yet.

As I was marveling at the stand and taking photos of it, this turkey vulture flew right into the frame! Turkey vultures are often seen in this spread-winged stance called the "horaltic pose." It helps dry their wings from the morning dew and also helps warm their bodies.

Post-processing: Shot with the Canon EOS 5D and the Canon 180mm f3.5L lens at 180mm, ISO 100, shutter speed 1/125s, aperture f/14. Curves, color balancing.

Thank you for visiting Durham Township!

-- Kathleen


Wow. I'm really speachless. Perfect composition and colour gradient. There's something mystic about this picture, something supernatural. Thanks for sharing.

Posted by dee on June 16, 2007 4:45 AM

Kathleen, very dramatic image. Looks familiar... http://themaggot.net/index.php?showimage=437

Posted by clarence on June 16, 2007 6:09 AM

Wow, that's really cool.

I have never associated Osprey with that area. I see lots of them down South Jersey, but I don't recall ever seeing them elsewhere in Jersey.

I've never seen a Turkey Vulture in that pose either. Very impressive photo. Very well timed, and the atmosphere with the mist is perfect.

Posted by Laurie on June 16, 2007 6:32 AM

I love how the vulture is overlooking the mangled field. Nicely composed and the fog adds just a little something extra. Great work.

Posted by Angry Buddha on June 16, 2007 7:08 AM

beautiful shot. Nice timing with the bird.

Posted by Keith De-Lin on June 16, 2007 7:22 AM

Wow! Incredible shot. Really well timed, exposed, composed, everything. Super!

Posted by Justin on June 16, 2007 8:24 AM

Turkey vultures drying their wings always seems "Christ-like to me. Powerful imagery.

Posted by Marie on June 16, 2007 9:01 AM

This is an amazing picture. I wanted to thank you for your site. Your pictures are incredible.
I live in Highlands, NJ and now day trips to Bucks County are mandatory. Thanks.

Posted by Rich on June 16, 2007 11:47 AM

I see so many of these raptors every morning near my home. They remind me of a Phoenix rising from the ashes with their wings spread like so. A riveting composition, Kathleen. Very atmospheric and mystical.

Posted by DeWaun Simmons on June 16, 2007 12:47 PM

First vulture I've seen setting his sails in a crow's nest....doing an impression of a moon raker at very low tide?......proud bird or just wind vain?.....thar she pose, captian!....up all sails and reef the turkey...."four and twenty" in the hold for impersonating an osprey...

A marvelous capture of mistical imagery, no joke.

Shoot on, young lady!

Posted by david tinnon on June 16, 2007 2:38 PM

Beautiful composition. Kudos!

Posted by bachi on June 16, 2007 4:00 PM

Super image, Kathleen! Do you happen to know how the builder got the structure standing upright? I assume he built it in parts laying on the ground. Just curious! :)

Posted by Judith Polakoff on June 16, 2007 5:01 PM

It's like a living totem pole. Quite lovely.

Posted by imajica on June 16, 2007 7:04 PM

I have never seen a buzzard drying its wings. It kinda reminds me of a cormorant.

Posted by Joey on June 16, 2007 10:33 PM

What is that all over the ground? It gives the shot a very creepy feel. We have birds down here that actually swim and dive and when they are done they stand in this same position to dry their wings. If i'm not mistaken I think they're called Anhingas.

Posted by Michael George on June 17, 2007 1:11 AM

Excellent capture and composition. The lighting couldn't be better. The bird looks like he spreading his wings to pay respects to the sun god that is bathing him in myterious light from above. This is an excellent image, Kathleen.

Posted by Russ D. on June 17, 2007 10:31 AM

Judith: I've asked Dave, the landowner, to give us his story about how got the structure up there. When I hear from him I'll post it here and let you know.

Michael George: What you see is last season's corn stalks on the ground, with plenty of new weeds filling in between the rows. :)

Posted by Kathleen on June 17, 2007 12:22 PM

Impressing photo and bird as well..

Posted by tobias on June 17, 2007 3:55 PM

What an amazing photo, very peaceful and ethereal.

Posted by Charley Pitchford on June 17, 2007 9:18 PM

I perch here far above the ground, warming myself in the early morning light. You drive by and what do you see? Is it the noble and proud Bald Eagle, ( Haliaeetus leucocephalus ), the symbol of our country? No? In that case it must be the Osprey, ( Pandion haliaetus ), that handsome and impressive fisher who resides along waterways. No? Then what type of bird would produce such a majestic silhouette?

A Turkey Buzzard of course! Not a romantic visual perhaps but a functional bird nonetheless. You see me cleaning up your messes every day so show a little appreciation.

It has been said that patience is a virtue, but for me, it's a meal!

Posted by Willow on June 17, 2007 9:29 PM

I've seen cormorants stand with their wings spread to dry off, but I'd never have expected it from a turkey vulture. Very haunting scene.

Posted by MarkDM on June 18, 2007 12:31 AM

Impressive in every way.

Posted by Gerald on June 18, 2007 7:15 AM

Magnificent and intriguing image, we don't have vultures or buzzards in our country, just hawks, so have enjoyed looking up info on this species. My congratulations to the builder of the nesting station, something the best Kiwi farmer/birdlover would be proud of. Thank you for this and your other beautiful images, I learn a lot from them about your part of the world, and visit your site every day.

Posted by Pamela, New Zealand on June 18, 2007 7:15 AM

Wow ! Absolutely incredible. Fantastic light.

Posted by Jim Crotty on June 18, 2007 8:55 AM

Haven't visited for awhile, but must remedy that since I think your photos are outstanding.

Posted by Kate on June 18, 2007 10:02 AM

Great photo!

Can I do a link from my blog with your photo, and your name and references?!


Cristina Garcia

Posted by Cristina on June 18, 2007 2:04 PM

Yet again a beautiful shot!

Posted by Marcelo on June 19, 2007 12:20 PM

Wow, beautiful! I just love this picture! :)

Posted by Brian on June 19, 2007 6:45 PM

I know a local bird watcher that told a few years ago where a Osprey's nest is located and it is in upper Bucks County. I am sure that you have driven past it many times. I will not diclose it's location on a public website out of respect for the wildlife.

Posted by Dee on June 20, 2007 6:33 PM


Posted by Abbas on June 25, 2007 10:34 AM

Great contra-light makes nice silhouette. Great mist back there! Like it!

Posted by Lud@ on July 22, 2007 4:45 AM

Very, very original! It's easy to see why your site is so popular!

Posted by Ralf on July 27, 2007 8:45 PM

haha awesome! http://photos.sull3n.org/index.php?showimage=470

Posted by Sebastian on November 19, 2007 3:38 PM
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