Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Black and grey

with 48 comments

Vulture Atop Dead Tree 1824

Compare the colors (except for the red) and textures of this vulture with those of the dead tree on which I found it sitting at Tejas Camp in Williamson County on January 13. If you’d like to zoom in on the vulture, you need only click the excerpt below.

Vulture Atop Dead Tree 1824 Detail

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 23, 2016 at 5:02 AM

48 Responses

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  1. Hallo Steven, Is the iridesence on the tree not a mirroring from the sun on the wings of the vulture? If it is not then it is a very pretty dead tree with amazing colours I think.

    Lindylou

    January 23, 2016 at 6:01 AM

    • Hi, Lindylou. Can you tell me where on the tree you’re seeing iridescence? I see a slightly warm tonality in a few places on the underside of the tree, but no iridescence.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 23, 2016 at 7:04 AM

      • Hi Steven, the last person to post a comment with the name shoreacres has given me the answer. The pink is indeed the leg of the vulture and the blueish green are two of its nails showing slightly lower down where he is holding the tree trunk. However under the bird’s breast feathers the outline of the tree does seem to have a definite green blue colour along its edge, What is that?

        Lindylou

        January 23, 2016 at 1:54 PM

        • When you asked about iridescence, I thought you meant luminous colors like those in a rainbow, but it seems you may have meant colors in general. Yes, the pink is from the vulture’s leg. The bluish cast on the tree and the thin green curve along the edge of the tree are artifacts of processing the image, especially when it’s converted to jpeg for display on the Internet. In the much larger original image I don’t see any green from the vulture’s nails, nor do I find that green curve along the right edge of the tree. There is a slight bluish cast on the upper part of the tree; it results from darkening that area, which was unnaturally bright by comparison with the black of the bird that I focused on. Cameras are quite limited in comparison to our eyes, and are likely to remain so for a long time.

          Steve Schwartzman

          January 23, 2016 at 2:38 PM

        • I should add that different monitors can render colors quite differently, and that fact further complicates the situation when people try to compare colors.

          Steve Schwartzman

          January 23, 2016 at 2:49 PM

  2. Thanks for the closeup. I personally respect vultures for their cleanup of dead creatures. I remember a time in Alabama when their numbers were greatly diminished. Around the world the numbers
    are diminishing, too. The birds serve such an essential role in the environment though massive flocks in communities are unhealthful to plants and people. The one you photographed blends in beautifully with the
    dead old tree. Turkey vulture I believe. Stately when it flies. Great shot.

    Dianne

    January 23, 2016 at 7:14 AM

    • You’re welcome for the closeup, and thanks for reminding me that I should have identified this as a turkey vulture, Cathartes aura. I know little about birds, but I’ve seen this species often enough over recent years that my anecdotal impression is that its numbers don’t seem to be diminishing here. Of course it’s possible that decades ago there were more of them here than now: I’ve seen groups of up to a dozen, but not massive flocks.

      There were two vultures atop this tree but one flew away as I approached and I wasn’t able to get a picture of it in flight. At least I got the remaining one with its mouth open a few times.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 23, 2016 at 7:40 AM

  3. The vultures leave our area during winter. Earlier in the month, we drove to the DC area. We noticed vultures several times in southern OH and WV and VA. When they return, it will be in large numbers. https://ourviewfromiowa.wordpress.com/2013/09/29/out-the-back-window-vultures/

    Jim Ruebush

    January 23, 2016 at 7:24 AM

    • I don’t believe I’ve ever seen as many vultures in one place as you showed in your photograph, but birders in this area may know where larger groups tend to congregate.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 23, 2016 at 7:44 AM

      • Another group gathers on a cell tower each night. It is near a stone quarry. The early morning sun warms the wall of the quarry. The rising warm air gives them a lift to start their day.

        Jim Ruebush

        January 23, 2016 at 8:07 AM

  4. I noticed the color of the tree right away. After looking a little more closely, it seems the pink is the bird’s leg, and the blue may be reflection from the sky. In any case, it is one of the best-looking dead trees I’ve seen. And Mr. Bird? Despite years of seeing these vultures along the roadsides and in photos, this is the first time it’s occurred to me how much like raw meat their heads appear. Fitting, I suppose.

    shoreacres

    January 23, 2016 at 9:17 AM

    • I’ve noticed the “meatiness” of their heads too, Linda. Not a handsome bird except to Ma Vulture, I suppose.

      Steve Gingold

      January 23, 2016 at 2:18 PM

      • And I noticed the meatiness of this vulture’s head too. As is sometimes the case when I notice something, I’d thought about mentioning it but decided to wait and see if it came up in any of the comments—and it did twice.

        Steve Schwartzman

        January 23, 2016 at 2:41 PM

    • You’ve reminded me of the so-called doctrine of signatures, in which a disease was believed to be curable by using something reminiscent of the symptoms or something that causes similar symptoms. How fitting, then, for a bird that sticks its head into decaying meat to have a head that looks like decaying meat.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 23, 2016 at 2:44 PM

  5. That’s a great capture Steve!

    • The momentarily open mouth gave the portrait a dynamism that I like and that was lacking from some of the other pictures I took of this vulture.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 23, 2016 at 2:45 PM

      • Oh the open beak really makes the image!!

        • I’m glad you agree. I don’t recall an open beak in pictures of vultures I’d taken on other occasions.

          Steve Schwartzman

          January 23, 2016 at 6:38 PM

          • It really shows the vulture’s character! They’re quite fascinating birds even if not the most attractive 😉 A local falconry team has a couple of white backed vultures and they’re wonderful to watch in flight and very comical with their antics 🙂

            • You’re the first person I’ve encountered who’s described vultures as engaging in comical antics. You’re also the first I’ve heard speak of a vulture’s character. As for “not the most attractive,” there you’ve joined the majority opinion.

              Steve Schwartzman

              January 24, 2016 at 7:38 PM

              • Maybe because I’ve been able to watch them in real life? They really are comical!! Mostly when they’re doing they’re funny skipping walk on the ground 😉 The captive birds I’ve seen have a very close relationship with their handler and really like to play.

                • You’ve given good reasons to back up your comment. Thanks.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  January 25, 2016 at 8:19 AM

                • There’s nothing like seeing birds and animals in the flesh as it were! I would love to see more of the species I love in their natural wild habitat but I’m thankful that I do get to see them at all 🙂 Apologies for the idiot auto text error up “there” above, when it should have been “their”!

                • In a similar way, I try to photograph native plants in their natural environments, and only a small minority of my pictures come from botanical gardens.

                  Like you, I struggle more often than I like with the autofill feature of some programs.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  January 25, 2016 at 10:02 PM

                • Sometimes auto correct or suggest is useful and then, just when you take your eye off it, it makes you look like an idiot 😉

                • Maybe we should start keeping track of the funnier auto-corrections we experience.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  January 26, 2016 at 8:19 PM

                • Here’s an amusing exercise for your smartphone/tablet auto suggest: Press the middle suggestion once followed by the right hand suggestion twenty times. You’ll get something like this,

                  I think I used the moment I don’t have an excellent job and a bit like the holocaust and a bit

                  That’s an exceptionally strange one!! You can do many varieties on the theme. If I take the left suggestion I get this,

                  Oh and the kids to the village if you have any queries please do let us help me out with a specialist

                  I often wonder if this is how spam is generated 😉

                • I tried it and here’s what I got: “I don’t have the right way too long and the first place I have no clue who I was in my room.” Sure sounds like spam, doesn’t it?

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  January 27, 2016 at 4:10 PM

                • Pahahahaha 😉 Brilliant! It went around my circle of friends on Facebook a while ago and it still cracks me up. Best bit is “I have no idea who I was in my room” 😉

                • Sometimes I have no idea who I was or am anywhere else, either.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  January 27, 2016 at 4:23 PM

                • Or why you were there? That’s the one that gets me the most! I’m sure I’m there for a reason but I haven’t the foggiest what it was 😉

  6. I have to admit that seeing a vulture looking down at me would cause a bit of nervousness about what it knows that I do not.

    Steve Gingold

    January 23, 2016 at 2:20 PM

  7. They are pretty impressive birds, the first time I came upon several roosting in a dead tree I was pretty amazed by their size.

    Charlie@Seattle Trekker

    January 23, 2016 at 3:45 PM

    • In spite of their size, they’ve shown themselves pretty skittish and haven’t let me get close when they’re on the ground. Even when they’ve perched atop a pole or in a tree, they’ve sometimes taken off at the least excuse.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 23, 2016 at 4:49 PM

  8. Wow .. what a great shot! 😀

    Julie@frogpondfarm

    January 25, 2016 at 12:43 AM

  9. Both images are stunning! I can’t believe, how you managed to capture this 🙂

    Truels

    January 27, 2016 at 5:23 AM

    • Without a telephoto lens I wouldn’t have been able to do it. I had good timing in being able to catch the vulture with its mouth momentarily open.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 27, 2016 at 6:44 AM

  10. I wonder what it’s saying??

    Lyle Krahn

    March 14, 2016 at 1:18 PM

    • The telephoto makes the bird look closer and lower down than it was, so it wasn’t in any danger, but I think it was still bothered that I approached the base of the tree.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 14, 2016 at 4:14 PM


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