Red-capped Vulture Increasingly Visible in Nova Scotia

A bird with a bright red bald head has not gone unnoticed this spring in Cape Breton, where many residents have spotted it for the first time. The red-headed vulture, or vulture, will visit this part of Nova Scotia more and more regularly, and we will have to get used to its presence, according to experts.

Cape Bretoners should not be worried about the presence of this bird in the face of the eyes of the people, but rather rejoice, says ornithologist and columnist Alain Clavette.

“It’s an environmental cleaner, it’s an important animal,” he says.

He gives us a service by cleaning up, recycling carrion, putrefying animal matter. It purifies our ecosystems.

Alain Clavette, ornithologist and columnist.

The red-headed urubu only feeds on the flesh of dead animals. A food he finds in abundance in the Maritimes and elsewhere.

The presence of the Red-breasted Vulture would be due to the expansion of the North American road network in the last century.

“Road development, human development in general, will produce more fatalities in wildlife, so more carcasses to eat,” says Clavette.

As a result of collisions involving various animals on motorways, the urubu followed its food, from the south of the United States and elsewhere, to our home.

“The quantity of carrion to eat at the beginning of the 19th century was just not there, so these birds did not have any business here,” summarizes Mr. Clavette. “Now the carrion is there, so they are there. ”

Most of the urubi return south in the fall, but the bird slowly but surely colonizes the territories where it ventures. The new generations endure our winters well, the presence of food being the reason that ultimately leads them to settle here. The climate has little to do with the expansion of the species, says Clavette.

The red-headed urubu first appeared in New Brunswick in the early 1990s, recalls Alain Clavette.

These observations were rather rare at the time. The situation is different today. “He’s going, more and more, to places he did not go before, and we even have birds now that are going to spend the winter,” he says.

In addition to animals killed by road collisions, the urubu will feed on hay when animals, including rodents and other birds, are caught in agricultural machinery. “In the middle of the nesting season, the urubu has only to walk after in these fields, and it is a lunch,” says Alain Clavette.

Since the species does not compete with native species for food, the red-headed urubu “appropriated an ecological niche that was vacant, or perhaps nonexistent,” says Clavette.

The bird, with a spout suitable for bones, is particularly poorly equipped to attack other animals. There is no need to worry, therefore, for his pets or livestock.

The urubu is satisfied with its role of cleaner and, despite its worrying air, is harmful neither to humans nor to other animal species.

“We all have the image of the Wild West, the Arizona desert, with urubuses circling a corpse. We are far from this image when you see them on a truck at the back of a shopping center in the middle of January, but that’s exactly the reality, “says Alain Clavette.

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