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Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Clothed in black

Today, 9 November 2016, I finally caught up with the Black Vulture (Coragyps atratus) that's been observed in Bodega Bay for the past month.  It was drinking from a small puddle in the dirt parking lot at the north end of Bodega Harbor (adjacent to the Bodega Dunes campground).

Black Vultures are rare vagrants to this area.  It looks like the closest regularly occurring population is in south-central Arizona.

Here's a nice comparison with a Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura):

Note the differences in head color (gray vs. red); overall feather colors (black vs. brown); bill shape (straighter vs. more noticeably curved); and visibility of nostrils (subtle vs. obvious).

Interestingly, although the Black Vulture is slightly smaller overall, it was dominant to the Turkey Vultures.  In the picture below, note how the Black Vulture is standing upright and defending the water source, while the Turkey Vultures are low and submissive:

After drinking, the Black Vulture flew up to a nearby cypress tree to bask in the morning sunNote the "fluffed" feathers around the neck and wings (to "let the sun shine in"):

P.S.  The genus, Coragyps means "raven-vulture" and the species name, atratus, means "clothed in black."  So this is the "raven-vulture that's clothed in black."


Dan Gurney said...

Very interesting. Thank you for this information about the Black Vulture. I'll keep and eye out for it when I'm at the coast.

Jackie Sones said...

Hi, Dan!

The Black Vulture has been seen at the north end of Bodega Harbor -- including Porto Bodega and Spud Point. It's also been seen over at Doran Beach (in the cypress trees).

Good luck!


John W. Wall said...

I'm told by a birder here at work that a black vulture has been in the area for a couple of years.

Jackie Sones said...

Hi, John!

Yes, the Black Vulture appeared in Marin County in 2014...and what is possibly (probably?) the same bird has been seen at various sites in both Marin and Sonoma counties since then. This is the first time it has been observed in Bodega Bay.