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Rare or not on Whidbey, turkey vulture sightings thrill some

A turkey vulture was seen near one North Whidbey residence this week, creating online buzz about whether the bird is commonly found on Whidbey Island. - Photo courtesy of Ali Fischer
A turkey vulture was seen near one North Whidbey residence this week, creating online buzz about whether the bird is commonly found on Whidbey Island.
— image credit: Photo courtesy of Ali Fischer

Bald eagles are a common and, for some, a thrilling sight on Whidbey Island.

However, another bald-headed bird is a less-common, more-surprising and no-less-thrilling sight for some residents.

Turkey vultures, easily recognized by their featherless, red heads and rocking flying patterns, are the most widely distributed vulture in America, according to birdweb.org.

For North Whidbey residents Dave and Ali Fischer, though, the sighting of a turkey vulture in their neighborhood was a unique treat.

“That’s the first time I’ve ever seen one on the island,” said Ali, adding that the only other time she’s seen one was in neighboring Anacortes.

Her husband, Dave, saw a turkey vulture on Whidbey Island in 1982 while studying ornithology in elementary school. At the time, Dave said he recalled learning that turkey vultures were an endangered species.

“(My teacher) didn’t believe I’d seen a turkey vulture, because he said they were incredibly rare,” he said.

Now, turkey vultures are common in many areas of Washington, most often found above open country, especially near rocky or wooded areas, where they like to nest.

The birds migrate south for winter, but can be seen often in the state from February to October.

In a comment posted on the Whidbey News-Times Facebook page, Whidbey Island resident Rita Dybdahl Cline said she “saw one a couple weeks ago in L&M acres, but it isn’t the first time I’ve seen one on the island.”

“Not an unusual sighting this time of year.”

Other commenters also relayed tales of their sightings, some agreeing it’s not that uncommon — others, however, were surprised to learn the birds apparently have a home on Whidbey.

“That is one homely bird,” commented Dawn Dee-Wessel. “But cool to see that we have them.”

“It’s definitely one of those things I’m going to remember a long time,” said Dave Fischer.

“It’s something I’d only ever seen on television or pictures in books.”

 

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