The Poolesville High School Track and Field Team were training cross country on Thursday, April 26th, when they found two tiny young hatchling Black Vultures. They picked them and brought them to Poolesville Veterinary Clinic for care. Poolesville veterinarians and staff examined them and could see that the younger of the two, we called “Track” was weak and dehydrated. They put him in an oxygen chamber to help him breathe. The second, older and larger chick, “Field”, was livelier, and showed an appetite by begging behavior. They called us at Owl Moon to see if we could admit the two babies for care. We retrieved them from the clinic and gave each of them a dose of warm fluids under the skin to rehydrate and warm them. Later we offered them food. Little Track was still weak and would not accept food, but Field was interested and took several bites before falling asleep. Sadly, when we checked on the chicks early the next morning, April 27th, we discovered poor Track had passed away overnight. Field, on the other hand, was stronger, livelier, and hungrier.
We had not received the full story of where, and under what circumstances, the track team had found the two chicks, and as always, we wanted to get the healthy baby back into the care of his parents as soon as possible. We called the high school in an effort to reach the students who had found the chicks and learn these important facts. The staff were very helpful, and the track team was happy to show us where they had discovered them. They were found under a shrub next to a busy road near the center of Poolesville, MD. There was no evidence of a nest there, but there was evidence of a recent nest in a nearby open and abandoned garage. The tiny hatchlings had could not have found their own way out, so we could only conclude that someone had removed them and placed them under the shrub. It was not safe to return little Field to his parents under these circumstances. It was time to activate Plan B. We were determined to find him a nest and vulture parents, because a chick raised by people starting at such a young age would likely become imprinted on people (no matter how well we disguised ourselves), and not be able to live in the wild.
We knew of a Black Vulture nest in previous years, in a silo on a farm in Tuscarora, MD. We went there to scout it out and see if the adults had returned, and if so, had successfully hatched chicks, how many, and of what age. We needed a near-perfect match, and we got one! There were two Black Vulture chicks, both slightly older than Field, in a well tended nest in the bottom of the silo. A perfect situation for fostering, because we do not want to endanger a successful nest by adding a bigger and stronger chick, but these chicks were all close in age and in a safe place where food is plentiful. So we plopped Field down, backed off, and observed.
This video was started right after Field was introduced to the nest. He immediately begins to beg food from the older chicks. They both respond with a firm no, but Field is strong and not deterred!
The beak grabbing and shaking goes on, until they seem to gain an understanding of the “pecking order”. No one is hurt, and evidently no feelings are hurt, as when we left all three were at peace. We cheerfully watched mom re-enter the silo from the outside, and feel good about Field’s and his new siblings’ chances of a successful upbringing.