Date: 2/27/17 2:32 pm
From: Joseph Neal <joeneal...>
Black Vultures are starting to nest in northwest Arkansas Evidence of this are pairs of vultures perching close together on limbs adjacent bluff lines where there are shallow caves suitable for a nest. When I was out today I spotted a Black Vulture perched at entrance to an overhang or shallow cave. It was quite a ways off, so I sat in my car and watched. One bird perched at the entrance. Then above me, a second bird appeared and landed on the ledge. It turns out the ledge is a sort of dancing ground, BV-style.

They walked back and forth, craning their necks and partially opening their wings. It may be something described in Birds of North America: “… pairs perform ritualized dance in which they face each other and engage in rapid Up-Down Display accompanied by bill-gaping…” Seeing them today was luck – I was looking for wildflowers.

Caverns like this are widespread in northwest Arkansas. Around 355 million years ago, readily recognizable bands of easily eroded limey shales, ranging reddish to greenish (Northview Member), were deposited over a wide area as part of the St Joe Limestone. Wind and water has had plenty of time to erode the limey shale, leaving a shallow cave below a fine roof of erosion-resistant bedrock.

Most of these overhangs are not true caves, but they have dark places and are typically inaccessible to disturbances, which makes them prime vulture real estate. I saw eggs in one several years ago on February 27 and young were still in this nest in mid-May.

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