Turkey vulture in a tux still not pretty

As is usually the case, Tuesday morning I was sticking to the backroads, spending most of my time watching anywhere but the road, when  I spotted a bunch of about 20 turkey vultures spread amid the top of a dead tree and a few fence posts. About 40 yards away, perched by itself, was a lone vulture. When I passed by it opened it’s wings and I saw the body was splashed with white.

This piebald turkey vulture was photographed between Sterling and the Quivira National Wildlife Refuge on Tuesday morning.

I’ve seen normally black birds splashed with white coloring before, but they’ve been crows that were obviously roosting on the lower branches of  of a communal roost tree.(Insert “ewwwhhhh” and wrinkled face, here), but I’d never seen a vulture like this.

Turning a quick, but careful U-turn in a soft spot down the road, I checked the bird first with binoculars and saw it was what I’d thought – a piebald turkey vulture, with most of its white plumage up around it’s neck.

As I let the car roll slowly down the road towards the bird, three birds from the tree pitched down into the middle of the road. The bird with the tuxedo feathering followed, landing amid them. As soon as he landed the other three vultures walked several yards away, and wouldn’t look back at the piebald bird.

When the birds flushed as a truck barreled towards them, (which I thought was fairly rude since I was obviously in the middle of photo shoot,) the white and black bird landed on a fence post about 50 yards from the others. I think there’s no doubt he’s being shunned.

Other vultures seemed to shun the piebald bird on the ground, and it roosted many yards away from the other birds when they were in trees or on fence posts.

Home after an afternoon of shooting pics at Cheyenne Bottoms and the Quivira National Wildlife Refuge, I pulled up the shots of the off-colored buzzard first. The white plumage is kind of striking, but it still leads into what has to be the ugliest mug in the bird world.

But at least he looks better than the other vultures that were shunning him…I wonder if they were jealous?