Cherie Pittillo, “nature inspired”, zoologist, wildlife photographer, and author, explores nature everywhere she goes. She’s identified 54 bird species in her Merida, Yucatan backyard view. Her column, published on the 7th and 21st of each month features anecdotes about birding in Merida, Yucatan and beyond. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org All rights reserved, ©Cherie Pittillo
Hop. Jump. Flap. Tag.
I never thought to use these words to describe the behavior I observed of a young Black Vulture at Merida’s Aqua Park. (Note the fine, hair-like feathers on its head which becomes featherless when mature.)
First the vulture landed on a bathroom-sized rock adorned with a small tree. That tree became the target for a game of tag.
The vulture hopped and jumped towards the tree, lifted off the rock by flapping its wings, and then landed in front of the tree and touched it with its bill.
Several times it missed the target. Here’s a too close encounter:
PHOTO Black Vulture missed again.
It then ran back to the other side of the rock and continued skipping, hopping and landing. Maybe it was air break dancing. Time and time again. Finally, its air brakes seemed to work fine after several attempts.
I watched this young raptor repeat those efforts for 21 minutes and thought it was playing. Luckily I shared my observations with friend and world class birder, Alex Dzib, of Celestun. (email@example.com) He immediately explained that the vulture had to practice how to land.
Wow, I’d never thought about that part of bird flight. Then I realized I had seen two Tropical Mockingbird siblings feed in a Cecropia tree in my backyard view. I laughed when one bird tried to fly up underneath the leaves to catch an insect, but missed and flopped down and caught itself on the leaves below, a different air break.
And what did the young vulture do after it left the rock? After all that practice, it crash landed into nearby shrubs.
Go outdoors for your own flight of fancy to practice your observational skills in nature.
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