Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Vulture atop Ashe juniper

with 25 comments

Vulture Atop Ashe Juniper Tree 4062

After I stopped to photograph some flowering cenizo bushes on September 2, I noticed a group of black vultures, Coragyps atratus, feeding on the carcass of a small animal. When I got closer I could tell that it was a rabbit, but my approach scared the vultures away. One flew up and settled on the top of an Ashe juniper tree, Juniperus ashei, as you see here.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 26, 2015 at 5:27 AM

Posted in nature photography

Tagged with , , , , ,

25 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Vultures aren’t especially pretty, but they can be striking, especially when they don’t have their head buried in a carcass. This one’s especially attractive. I like the way you’ve captured the detail in the neck feathers. And, of course, he’s perfectly framed by that juniper.

    Just out of curiosity, what sort of lens did you choose for this photo?


    September 26, 2015 at 7:20 AM

    • That lighter-colored area—almost a separate garment thrown over the vulture’s head— appealed to me, too.

      The longest lens I have, and the one I used here, is a 70–200mm zoom, with which I gain extra reach by keeping a 1.4X converter almost permanently attached. I took this picture at the maximum setting of 280mm (1.4 x 200mm). As opposed to my camera’s full-frame sensor, your Rebel has an APS-C sensor that imparts a 1.6X crop factor to your lens. For example, if your lens is zoomed to 100mm, the camera “sees” the scene more closely, as if you were using a 160mm lens. That extra closeness provides an advantage for far-away subjects and skittish subjects that you can get only so close to before they run or fly away.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 26, 2015 at 7:35 AM

  2. Very striking looking. I have been noticing Turkey Vultures coming much closer to human settings lately…wonder what they know?! Ha! Yesterday I saw 3 roosting in a tree right by a road. Usually I only see them aloft, riding thermals.


    September 26, 2015 at 11:21 AM

    • I don’t know what to infer about your turkey vultures coming closer to human settings. From time to time I see black vultures along the same stretch of road in my neighborhood, with houses all around. It’s not unusual to see one or more of them perched on the horizontal bar of a street light,


      and in fact that’s where four of the vultures ended up when I got too close to the spot where they’d been on the ground. By the time I got in position for pictures, two of the four had flown away. I occasionally see vultures riding thermals, as you said, but more often sitting on something.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 26, 2015 at 11:41 AM

      • My thought is that their numbers are rising, which has brought them into more contact with humans and they are getting more comfortable with being seen.
        Recently I saw one fall out of a tree, sick or injured. Now I see another, hanging about. I think perhaps it is the mate.


        September 26, 2015 at 12:31 PM

        • Interesting that their numbers are rising near you.

          I can’t say that the ones here are more frequent than before, and those that I’ve encountered are still leery of people.

          Steve Schwartzman

          September 26, 2015 at 2:47 PM

          • I imagine it is a function of a large bird rebounding from DDT, and the large tracts of preserves strung through the midst of a fairly urban area.


            September 27, 2015 at 11:56 AM

  3. You might have got them to return had you laid down motionless in the hot sun for an hour or two.

    Steve Gingold

    September 26, 2015 at 12:30 PM

  4. I saw several of these when I was in FL. I was able to take a portrait style of shot because I used to use the 100-400mm zoom lens; but that lens nearly ruined my hand because of its size. I like this framing with the flowers.

    Maria F.

    September 26, 2015 at 4:09 PM

  5. Fabulous photo.


    September 27, 2015 at 5:33 AM

  6. Quite a handsome fellow (or gal?). I’ve not seen black vultures before … the ones around here in southern AZ have red heads (turkey vultures)… ditto for the ones that make it into southern Alberta. A Calgary blogger wrote: “The black vulture does not have as good scent as the Turkey Vulture and tends, therefore, to follow Turkey vultures to carcasses where they proceed to drive the Turkey Vultures away from the meal.”(http://www.birdscalgary.com/tag/black-vulture/)


    February 21, 2017 at 11:37 AM

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: