Ok I need some help here. Recently some fairly large birds have been observed in our quiet semi-suburban neighborhood. Now for those of you who don’t live in the big city you are probably thinking what’s he on about. I’ll explain: our section of Philadelphia is close to the border of the city. It’s only aboutย two miles and you are out of Philly. Once you cross the northern border of the city it get’s pretty rural fast. Twenty minutes drive and you wouldn’t even know you were anywhere near a big city. I like that. But even so where we live isn’t what you would call the sticks.

So a couple of weeks ago when we saw this monster bird on our neighbors awning it caused quite a stir. Luckily we got some pretty good shots of it. Pretty ugly thing. As close as we can tell it’s a turkey buzzard (according to the boy and Fireboat John’s handbook of Pennsylvania birds). This bird is about 3 & 1/2 feet long. It’s crazy because having lived in this area my whole life I have NEVER witnessed birds this big around here let alone having them sit around for pictures. That brings me to case number two. Observe exhibit B:

When the boy and I came home from Cabelas the other day (road trip, yeah!) this bird was on my next door neighbors front lawn. It just sat there watching us so again we got the camera and got some pretty good pictures. The whole time it was sitting there without a care in the world and we couldn’t figure out why. I thought it may have been hurt. But we later discovered why. Exhibit C:

The corpus delicti. Dead squirrel.

The bird killed a squirrel (allegedly) and was watching over it. We may have interrupted the crime and didn’t realize it. The boy was so excited he had to run over and get Wyatt’s boys (no chance an eleven year old boy is keeping THIS a secret) who thought the whole thing was cool as well. This bird eventually left without his lunch, but we think it came back later and snatched the body because no one saw it being retrieved. It just vanished! Poof! So here is the $64,000 question: What kind of birds are these? I think the first one is a turkey buzzard. It kind of checks out in the book. My guess for the second one is an EAGLE! I’m not a bird specialist but that’s my call. I’m no ornithologist but I bet some of you are. How about clearing this mystery up. Also why would these large birds be so near the city? I’m pretty curious about this and any help would be appreciated.


10 Responses to THE BIRDS!

  1. AlexC says:

    Turkey buzzards or turkey vultures.
    I grew up in Bensalem, and dont remember them.

    But after I moved to Collegeville area, they’re everywhere.

    They’re huge. Amazing birds. Never seen them like that, just hanging around though.

  2. Wyatt Earp says:

    The second photo – the one that was on my roof – is a hawk. We SJU grads seem to attract them.

  3. Nate says:

    Yep first up is the turkey vulture… second in line is the red tailed hawk, both not out of the ordinary to see in southeast Montgomery County whats a few more miles down the road in the far northeast…
    Nice shots of both!

  4. Mrs. Crankipants says:

    We had a hawk in our neighborhood too. It shredded a pigeon, and left the parts in my yard and a neighbor’s. That thing was HUGE!

  5. Andrew says:

    Hey Cap,

    The first is a Turkey Vulture – you see them just about everyday in the Philly area. You’ll see them especially near highways where they ride the thermal heat that rises off the asphalt. Turkey Vultures are distinguished by their bald heads (it prevents them from getting an infection when dipping their heads deep into dead animals to eat) and also by the fact that they rarely flap their wings while in flight.

    The second one is most definitely a Red-Tailed Hawk. The most common type of hawk in this region. Unlike the Turkey Vulture, they do flap their wings quite often while in flight, although they tend to glide as much as possible.

    Interesting fact about the Red-Tail – Hollywood loves to use the Red Tail’s call in place of the Bald Eagle’s call in movies. In reality, the Bald Eagle sounds more like a crying baby chick than a bird of prey. The Red Tail has a much more powerful and menacing call, so Hollywood often overdubs the Bald Eagle’s call with the Red Tail’s to give the Bald Eagle (a symbol of American pride) a much more menacing and majestic aura. This guy explains it pretty well:

    Red Tail’s call (what they overdub Eagles with in movies):

    Actual Bald Eagle call:

  6. Bob G. says:

    Nice “neighbors” you’ve discovered…lol.
    Good idea to keep the cat INside.
    Yep…the top 2 pictures ARE a turkey vulture.
    ‘Bout a 6 ft. wingspan and they like to hiss and grunt…
    (hiss and grunt…sounds like Wifey when she misses a program on HSN…or ME when I wake up)

    The other bird of prey is like Nate said…a Red-Tailed Hawk (too small for a Kestral or Swainson’s Hawk)…we got the red-tails here in Hoosierland (Indiana) as well…they love to circle on the thermals.
    Around the ghettohood…nothing on the larger size but CROWS (thanks to all the tossed food from vehicles and renter paws)
    God, how I miss those PIGEONS in W. Washington Square!

    That’s IS some good picture-takin’ you have goin’ on, Cap.

    Now, if you have any EXTRA raw ground beef you’re not doing anything with…
    Imagine that, a firefighter AND a (potential) member of the Audubon Society…!

    Of course there IS always the Academy of Natural Science downtown to double-check.


    I’m just sayin’.

    Happy bird WATCHING…at least your garden won’t be overrun with rats or mice.

    Stay safe.
    (that goes for the CAT, too)

  7. AM says:

    hm… to me it looks like two different birds. different beaks and heads, yes?

    both breeds are large hunters. downtown, red hawks would perch in the trees in front of the high rises on the parkway hunting down game — squirrels and pigeons mostly.

  8. Old NFO says:

    Yep, everybody is correct… Y’all need to get out in the country once in a while ๐Ÿ™‚

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