I did some quick research at the Turkey Vulture Society website and learned that turkey vultures do, in fact, commonly nest in abandoned barns. This setting is apparently an adequate equivalent for their traditional habit of nesting in caves, hollow logs, burrows and the like.
|Pair of turkey vultures looking into barn|
The thing is, we saw a group of five turkey vultures on the roof of this barn four weeks ago, our first "TV" sighting of the year. It was a very unusual sight to see a group like this.
|Four of the five turkey vultures seen on same barn roof in March|
The Turkey Vulture Society says TVs raise one brood a year, with one to three eggs but most commonly two. So a family group of five is certainly possible. They don't really build nests -- they just scratch out an indentation somewhere or arrange some vegetation. They incubate their eggs for close to 40 days, and fledging takes place 70-80 days after that. First-year vultures have gray, rather than red, heads. Now I wish the earlier photo was clearer so I could see if some of the heads weren't fully red yet.
Everything I've now read suggests it is very likely that this barn is a nesting spot for turkey vultures, and it's in a location we'll pass weekly as we do our bluebird rounds. I'm looking forward to what we might see of turkey vulture family life -- from a respectful distance -- in the weeks ahead.
I've just learned of a live turkey vulture cam installed in a barn in Missouri where vultures are apparently nesting. Read the article here, which contains a link to the live stream.