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Please help identifying this large bird


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Hi there, I'm looking for help to identify this large bird that was in our backyard. We live in San Clemente, Ca. close to the hills of Camp Pendleton, and yesterday at 7:47pm we noticed this beauty drinking water out of our fountain. Our coastal town had a record heat of 107 yesterday. We've lived here over 20 years and none of us had ever seen this type of bird before, or experienced this heat. The bird stayed on the fountain for about 4 minutes drinking water periodically. Then expanded its wings, and gracefully soared off. Here's some photos, I apologize for the photos that are over exposed. Hopefully they still help! Thanks so much! Look forward to hearing from you all. Kristen 

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 My first thought was Black Vulture because of the black head, but I think San Clemente is well out of their range.  I'm going with my second thought - immature Turkey Vulture, one whose head hasn't turned red yet.  The pale trailing edge of the wing in the second photo also played a part in my decision.

Edited by Charlie Spencer
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Wow, thanks everyone! Just got a few new wrinkles in my brain..lol

If I may ask, is there a way to tell if it's a female or male? And with it being a juvenile, does that mean it will continue to grow? We're curious as well if the record heat led it to search for water out of its typical territory, or do they migrate? 

It was a pretty special moment for us, not only the shear beauty of its size and features, but because my Aunt had actually passed away yesterday morning. 7 hours later, a bird none of us had ever seen, is in our backyard..My oldest niece said, "It's Auntie Laura!!! Of course she'd come back as a "bad a$$" bird!!

Thank you all again, I'll definitely be coming back. We are blessed to have a large backyard, w/ multiple species of birds and other wildlife on a daily basis. Now I know where to come when we need help identifying our "winged friends" ??

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My condolences on your aunt.  I'm glad a bird experience gave you a good moment.

As far as I know, there's no way to tell if it's a male or female.  And it's not going to grow any more.  Like most but not all birds, Turkey Vultures are full-grown when they leave the nest.

They're a very widespread species, and they wander over long distances in search of food.  I don't know southern California, but just in general I'd be surprised if they don't fly over your place now and then.  You might know them as buzzards or think they're hawks if you see them flying, but you can tell them from hawks by their small head, their combination of long wide wings and a relatively long tail, and their tendency to soar with their wings well above the horizontal and rock side to side as if they were drunk.

Coming to your fountain for the first time sounds like a response to heat.

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