Black Vulture (Case History #2)

Black Vulture nestling fostered to a nest with a much older juvenile.

In the summer of 2004, the Wildlife Center received another very young  juvenile Black Vulture, but this time it took 3 weeks for us to locate a vulture nest to foster the juvenile.  During that time the bird was screened from human contact and was fed with a fairly life-like hand puppet, but we were unable to supply it with social stimulus, other than some mirrors and a stuffed animal.  The foster nest was in a horse stall in a vacant barn in Bibb County, and the other juvenile was several weeks older than the Wildlife Center’s orphan.  The size difference was so great that I was not at all sure that the smaller bird would be able to compete for food against the larger and much more experienced nest mate.  Nevertheless, it was the bird’s only hope of reaching maturity in the wild, so it was worth the risk.  The mother bird flew out of the stall through a high opening as soon as I approached, and I put the nestling just inside the door of the stall and stepped back quietly to see what would happen.  The older nestling ran to the far side of the stall and started to growl.  I watched for about 45 minutes, and the older nestling continued to growl, but made no move to harm the new nestling.  I eventually decided that my presence was a disturbing factor, and it was better to leave them alone.

Above: Barn located in Bibb County, Alabama

I came back the next day to check, and found the mother bird and   the smaller nestling standing together on one side of the stall, while the older nestling was still on the far side of the stall.  The next day I called the landowner for a report and was told that the two nestlings were now sitting so close together he at first thought there was only one bird.

Right: The older nestling remained on the far side of the stall for several days.

The birds were monitored every few days until they fledged.  I was concerned about whether or not the mother bird would continue visit the barn to feed the  younger bird after the older one fledged, since the age difference was much larger than would be normal in a brood of Black Vultures.   However, the younger bird fledged without incident several weeks after the older one.  I conclude that fostering Black Vultures to active nests is both desirable and quite easily done, if you can just find a nest.

Nestling introduced into stall

 

Fostered juvenile almost ready to fledge

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