Vultures summer residents in eastern New Mexico

CNJ staff photo: Liliana Castillo More than 50 vultures have claimed a patch of trees on city property north of North Plains Mall as their roost. The birds leave their roost to search for food during the day, according to Wildlife Biologist Tony Gennaro, and return each evening.

By Liliana Castillo: CNJ staff writer

More than 50 vultures are now part of the scenery above an expanse of city property north of North Plains Mall in Clovis.

But the carrion-eaters aren’t hovering over their next meal. They’re nesting, according to Tony Gennaro, a wildlife biologist with Eastern New Mexico University.

“They’ve just decided to roost there. It doesn’t mean something is dead under them,” Gennaro said.

Gennaro said turkey vultures make their home in New Mexico for the summer months, starting in mid March. He said they likely will stay until mid-October to nurture and strengthen their young.

In October, the birds will migrate south for the winter, he said.

“What you see flying around is usually the parents and the young. They’ll search for food during the day and return to their perch site in the evening, called a roost,” Gennaro said.

The biologist said turkey vultures are identifiable by their large black wings with white feathers along the edge and the way they “tilt” in the sky, raising one wing and then the other to hover on air currents. This method helps them conserve energy as the cover miles of territory looking for food.

The vultures new choice of residence isn’t a problem for the city, City Manager Joe Thomas said.

“As long as they’re in that wooded area, I don’t know that they are creating any concern or problem,” he said.

Thomas said the city acquired the land about 10 years ago for use as storm water drainage relief.

“We’re looking at several possibilities for development,” he said. “There has been consideration of creating green areas or nature and walking trails through the area.”

Thomas said if the land is developed, he still doesn’t see the vultures as a problem.

“Vultures are not aggressive. They have a bad name, but they are relatively disease free,” he said.

By the numbers

2 foot average body length

5.5 foot average wing span

4.5 lbs. average weight

Source: Cornell Lab of Ornithology