Quiz Bird: answer

Thanks to all who responded to Quiz Bird. We have several correct answers/guesses. Some folks replied via comments on the post, some wrote in privately.

See explanation below.

The bird is obviously a large dark bird, black, in fact. Size is difficult to determine without something of known size with which to compare. But, you can tell from this photo that it’s not a robin-sized bird, far from it.

Crows, ravens, turkey and black vultures, and even immature bald eagles are large dark birds. Immediately, all but two of those birds are eliminated by one feature, the small head of the bird.

Both turkey and black vultures lack feathers on their heads, which makes their heads look much smaller than the other birds mentioned. This bird’s head is partially hidden by small branches, so it must be rather small (It can be seen in the enlargement above).

The bird has a very short tail. Turkey vultures, eagles, crows and ravens all have much longer tails in proportion to their bodies.

If that wasn’t enough to eliminate all but black vulture, the best, and very obvious, clue to its identity is the color of the last six primary feathers on each wing. They’re whitish in color, at least on the underside of the wings (topside, they’re black). No other large dark bird in our area has these wing markings.

Turkey vulture does have light grey primaries, but the secondaries are also gray. (Note, immature golden eagles and crested caracaras have white markings on their primary flight feathers, immature golden eagle has a larger head, and longer, white-based tail. Caracara also has a longer white-based tail as well as white head and neck. Neither bird is likely to be seen in our area, not impossible, but not likely).

This black vulture was coming in for a landing to join half a dozen other vultures already on the ground consuming a road-kill deer.

  

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