Elvira the black vulture an unlikely lodger at Hope for Wildlife

A wildlife shelter in Seaforth, N.S., has taken in an unexpected lodger: a black vulture more likely to be found in South America than Nova Scotia.

Wayward bird usually seen in southeastern U.S., South America

This black vulture, dubbed Elvira, was found emaciated in Cape Breton, much farther north than is normal. (Submitted by Hope for Wildlife)

A wildlife shelter in Seaforth, N.S., has taken in an unexpected lodger: a black vulture that would be more at home in North Carolina than Nova Scotia.

The vulture, dubbed Elvira by the family that saved it, would normally be expected in a range between the southeastern U.S. and South America, though it's increasingly been sighted as far north as New England.

"He's definitely going to be staying the winter and in all honesty, I don't think he would have survived a Nova Scotia winter, just because of the way he's built and the fact that he's really not supposed to be here," said Hope for Wildlife founder Hope Swinimer, who has never dealt with a black vulture during her 20 years on the job.

The shelter had calls from a household in Cape Breton who had been hand-feeding the bird, which had been hanging around for a couple of weeks.

"It got to the point where I was starting to get concerned 'cause this is certainly not normal behaviour for any bird," she said.

On the day the family decided to catch it, it disappeared. Swinimer said she didn't hear anything for about a week. 

"And then I received a call about 15 minutes down the road from a family that was terrified of this bird and the lady said, 'You need to come get this.'"

'He's very handsome'

Swinimer contacted the first woman she'd been dealing with and had her capture the bird. 

"If you can catch a bird, that's a very good indicator usually that they are in some form of distress," she said. 

The shelter made the drive to pick up Elvira. The name has stuck, though they're not sure whether the vulture is male or female.

Elvira may be released near turkey vultures like this one. (Michael Pearce/Whichita Eagle/Associated Press)

Elvira arrived emaciated, but has been doing better since her arrival. Swinimer said vultures enjoy decomposing meat, so they've been feeding it food for other animals they'd normally throw out.

"Even though it's a little old and decomposed that suits her just fine."

Swinimer said they might try to release it near turkey vultures in the province. Black vultures like to hang around turkey vultures, which have a superior sense of smell for finding carrion. Alternatively, the shelter may return the bird to its normal range.

In the meantime, the bird will have a welcoming home in Nova Scotia.

"He's very handsome, in a strange kind of way. We don't get patients that look like this very often," she said.


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