This is a good time to watch turkey vultures migrate in a southwest direction along the North Shore of Lake Superior. I'll also still see them soaring over Lake Waconia and over the Minnesota River Valley at Le Sueur. And they are seen, too, roosting together in tall trees in St. Peter and other spots. Their main migration time out of Minnesota ends soon, but a few stragglers will be seen in November. After wintering in the southern part of their range, the first turkey vultures will be back in Minnesota by mid-March.
High daily counts of more than 700 turkey vultures have been made at Hawk Ridge in Duluth during fall.
In summer, the birds are residents and nesters in the forested northeast, and along the St. Croix, lower Mississippi and adjacent river valleys. Their range is from southern Canada, all across the Lower 48, to South America. I heard the residents call them crows in the Bahamas. In Ohio and other areas, they are sometimes called buzzards.
Turkey vultures weigh 4 to 5 pounds, and have red skin on their heads and dark body feathers resembling a wild turkey's.
The 6-foot wingspan is held in a shallow V when soaring. There is a two-toned look to the underwings, lined in black against gray flight feathers. This apt soarer travels wide circles and sustains itself with only occasional, slow flaps of its wings.
Jim Gilbert's Nature Notes are heard on WCCO Radio at 7:15 a.m. Sundays. His observations have been part of the Minnesota Weatherguide Environment Calendars since 1977, and he is the author of five books on nature in Minnesota. He taught and worked as a naturalist for 50 years.