Posted by: atowhee | April 24, 2019


We had a good hour at Linfield this morning.  Swift, swallows, warblers.  Aggressive Bewick’s Wren.  Pair of downys together, later a pair of creepers. No quibble that the highlight was a trio of Turkey Vultures and an adult Bald Eagle, circling the parking lot at St. Vincent de Paul and a neighboring bar-b-que shop.  Turns out there were food scraps in the dumpster with the lid open.  So did the eagle smell the garbage, or follow the TVs who we know have keen smellers?  The science of birds’ olfactory ability is very primitive.  Click here for the best available info.  Nothing pertinent to Bald Eagles of course.

Here are some thoughts from Paul Sullivan who was on the walk: “I’m thinking about this question of a Bald Eagle being able to smell carrion.  Further thoughts.  Could it be possible that the eagle had previous experience finding carrion at that location?

Could it be possible that the eagle followed the Turkey Vultures to the site?

I checked a few things out.  First of all, the vultures were not zeroing in on the parking lot this morning, they were just wandering about.  The eagle came, and they gave it room.  Then the eagle zeroed in on the parking lot.   The barbeque pit was not operating this morning.

I rechecked the dumpster and did not find it smelly (I don’t have a very good nose.), but my companions assured me it was smelly.  What I saw looked more like pizza and barbeque waste, not raw meat.   I asked the folks at the market, and they do indeed butcher meat.  Attractant is present.

They said they had never seen an eagle or a vulture around the market, which points toward no previous experience on the part of the eagle.   So this points to the eagle finding the site on its own and focusing in on the dumpster.”  —Paul Sullivan

I would add that the TVs were perched less than 100 yards from the dumpster when we first saw them so they might have been able to smell the target BEFORE the eagle arrived.  They had launched into flight but not obviously focused on the parking lot before the eagle as Paul described.

uHere are the TVs while they were perched:TV-TOO (2)

Here is the eagle circling low over town:be (2)_LI

Here is the pursuing crow who was trying impress the eagle with his territorial mandate.  Eagle seemed unimpressed:cro after be (2)

Creeper and Downys:

Camas in bloom now:CAMAS (2)

Linfield College campus, Yamhill, Oregon, US
Apr 24, 2019 8:00 AM – 9:05 AM.  24 species (I missed raven and hummingbirds that were noted by others in the group.  Most birders had left when we found the creepers, Steller’s Jay and Song Sparrow.)
Mallard  1
Vaux’s Swift  1
Great Blue Heron  2     fly over
Turkey Vulture  3
Bald Eagle  1
Downy Woodpecker  2
Northern Flicker  1
Steller’s Jay  1
California Scrub-Jay  1
American Crow  1
Violet-green Swallow  4
Black-capped Chickadee  1
Chestnut-backed Chickadee  1
Brown Creeper  2
Bewick’s Wren  1
American Robin  15
European Starling  X
Evening Grosbeak  X
House Finch  X
Lesser Goldfinch  X
Golden-crowned Sparrow  1
Song Sparrow  1
Orange-crowned Warbler  6
Yellow-rumped Warbler  15

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