Turkey vultures are Southerners by choice. New England motorists know they have crossed the Mason Dixon line when they see turkey buzzards circling overhead.
Despite there being few birds as despised as the vulture, they have much to be said in their favor. Whenever we behold these winged forms riding aloft, with all the grace found in the movements of a ballerina, we can see an elegance of flight and motion, a mastery of the skies that reveals overlooked beauty.
Likely Carolina’s most commonly seen member of the Order of the Falconiformes, our turkey buzzard, big and handsome, riding the winds of freedom, finds few challengers in its mastering of the skyways. It is protected under the Migratory Bird Act of 1914, based on its janitorial value in removing road kills and diseased carrion.
A passing shadow overhead called our attention to a gathering of vultures high, at least a couple thousand feet elevation, riding thermal updrafts, circling then disbanding and disappearing, before suddenly reappearing perhaps 50 feet overhead in what might best be called a ballet of sky dancers. They scrutinized us closely, golden sunshine reflecting from polished black feathers, bald red heads and piercing clear eyes. Beauty flies high as seen within the eyes of nature’s beholders.