The Real Sign of Spring…According to Dwayne

April 4, 2011 1 Comment

According to my husband, it is NOW spring. 

While many of us think that the first harbinger of spring is the American Robin,

Some robins winter over in Iowa, but the majority winter in warmer climates. And then return to some very grateful Iowans.

some hold out that it is only spring when the Red-winged Blackbirds get here.

Red-winged Blackbirds are very territorial. They may attack your hair if you get too close to their nests, especially when there are eggs or babies involved.

Others may wait for the kill-dee sound of the Killdeer.

Killdeer lay their eggs in gravel or rocks.

Click here to learn more about the killdeer and hear their call.

Dwayne says it is spring when the buzzards return.  He saw his first ones a week ago, so it can be officially spring now.

Isn't he a beauty?

Dwayne seems to be fascinated with them, so here is a bit of information…

They prefer rangeland and areas of mixed farmland and forest.  They also roost in large trees or on large urban buildings.  I am pretty sure I have seen Turkey Vultures flying into a barn along Highway 30 while I was driving to Des Moines.  Of course, they need a big building since they are big birds.  They are 25-32 inches long with a wingspan of 67-70 inches. They do not build a nest but put eggs directly on the ground in caves, crevices, mammal burrows, hollow logs, under fallen trees or in abandoned buildings.  That explains the barn.

They eat a wide variety of carrion, from small mammals to dead cows. They will also eat some insects, other invertebrates and some fruit.  That sounds like a well rounded meal. Yum.

They summer over much of the Continential United States with the Southeastern US, Central and South America getting to see them all year long.

Some facts you may or may not want to know about the Turkey Vulture:

-The Turkey Vulture uses its sense of smell to locate carrion. The part of its brain responsible for processing smells is very large compared to other birds. Its heightened sense of smell allows it to find dead animals below a forest canopy.

-The Turkey Vulture maintains stability and lift at low altitudes by holding its wings up in a slight V-shape and teetering from side to side while flying. It flies low to the ground to pick up the scent of dead animals.

-The Turkey Vulture usually forages alone, unlike its smaller and more social relative, the Black Vulture. Although one Turkey Vulture can dominate a single Black Vulture at a carcass, usually the larger number of Black Vultures can overwhelm a solitary Turkey Vulture and take most of the food.

I usually tell them apart from flying Bald Eagles because of the light that goes through the wings and the "fingers" at the tips of the wings. Well, and the fact that they don't have the white head and tail.

Whether they thrill you or scare you, they are a sign that spring has returned to Iowa.  Finally!

Dig it!

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  1. Marianne Folkerts says:

    oooops missed this post before…….that is a good sign of spring for us, too. they nest in our hay barn and scare the beejeebers out of a person when they fly out over top you. We sometimes have 15 or more flying around or sitting on the barn.

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