One of the most interesting things about birds and bird watching is that it’s always changing. As habitats are changed or grow, so do the birds who live there. Thus one year a field may hold many grassland species, but 10 years later be a small forest with a completely new bunch of birds.
But there are birds who a responding to a warmer climate. 50 years ago in Upstate New York, it was a good find to have a Turkey Vulture, Northern Cardinal or Tufted Titmouse, all 3 of which have become very common. Certainly a Red-bellied Woodpecker or Carolina Wren would be big news on the local Rare Bird Alert (RBA). However, yet another species is following in their footsteps (wing beats?) and that is Black Vulture.
Like many southern species Black Vulture would draw considerable attention from local birders. This species which is common across the Southern U.S. had very rarely pushed much further north than the Mason Dixon line. Most sightings in New York State where from downstate and the various hawk watches. In the late 1990’s the state, especially the lower Hudson Valley experienced an invasion of these species. Black Vultures quickly became regular in Rockland, Orange and Putnam counties where nesting has been suspected. Over the last decade Black Vulture populations have stabilized. There have been a few reports from parts of Ulster, Greene, Columbia and Dutchess counties, but the big invasion hat had been forecasted did not materialize.
The Spring 2006 report in the Kingbird, the Journal of the New York State Ornithological Associations, had ZERO reports in Region 8. But early here in 2007, that has all changed. Rich Guthrie reported a Black Vulture coming to roost with a group of Turkey Vultures in Ravena in March. Larry Federman reported seeing them near the City of Hudson. My wife Danika had one flying over Delmar in mid April and Chad Witko reported one in southern Columbia County in early May. Lastly, Corey Finger and Myself had one on May 14, 2007 over the Albany municipal dump in, you guessed it, Albany.
So in only 12 months we went from none to nearly a half dozen reports. And especially the bird near the dump likely won’t be going anywhere for awhile since it has a fairly stable food source. With many of these birds being seen late in the Spring the likelihood of these birds becoming resident is increasing. Like Turkey Vulture, they like secluded cliffs and other hideaways to ‘nest’. There is plenty of space in and around the upper Hudson Valley for them.
Will they become established? Well only time will tell, but if the eventual success of Turkey Vulture, Northern Cardinal, Tufted Titmouse, Carolina Wren and Red-bellied Woodpecker can be any indicators, they likely will.