The Turkey Vulture Project
By Cori Arnold and

Started on: 05/26/09 01:17:39
Medium: Visual

The Turkey Vulture Project

A few days spent collaborating with
a not so sought out, non-human animal and
how I became more understanding
of them and their livelihood.

Proposed Project Idea:

I am intrigued by the vultures in many ways and would like to try and collaborate with these non-human animals. Since they are birds and they are much more difficult to nail down and get close encounters with I am going to try and do something a little different. I am going to make a set of rules, each time I see certain patterns made/done by the birds I will react to these patterns and document my work to be shown in a gallery setting. The following incidents will lead to the following reactions:

1. If there are two vultures flying together and weaving in and out of one another, than I will lay down on the ground for one minute.
2. If there is one vulture flying over my head scavenging than I will flail my arms in the air with large circular motions.
3. If there are more than two vultures in the area at any given time, I will take my dog out of the car and walk him in three large circles.
4. If the vultures seem uninterested with me than I will do ten jumping jacks and make a “hooing” noise to see if that entices their interest.
5. If I am fortunate to find road kill on the side of the road with vultures eating it than I will stop my car on the side of the road, close to the birds and sit beside my car with my knees tucked into my chest.

Post Results and Summary:

I decided the best place to proceed with my collaboration would be back at the dam. It was fortunate when I arrived that hardly anyone was at the site. At first there were no visible Vultures and I was slightly disappointed. I found a brown and white stripped snake slithering around, but no Vultures in sight. I decided to walk around on a nearby trail to begin my search. Along the trail I spotted two Vultures that seemed to be soaring in a circular motion, weaving in and out through one another. I approached them closer and found an entire slough of Vultures weaving in and out through each other and searching for food. I decided it was time to begin enacting my rules. When one Vulture was over my head, I laid down flat on the ground, but the bird hardly seemed interested in me. When I stood back up, I noticed that all of the birds were no longer anywhere in site, so I needed to wait for them to return.

Once one was flying over my head I decided to try my second rule and flailed my arms in a circular motion, which seemed to do nothing for the Vulture. After I attempted this, I decided it was time to take my dog out and walk in circles. Fortunately there were suddenly several Vultures in the air above us. As I walked my dog in circles the Vultures began to circle around above us, I could not even begin to believe what was happening. I decided I needed to have someone else walk the dog in circles, so that I could try and get pictures of this playful-like behavior coming from the birds.

My husband preferred to run in a circle with the dog, and next thing I saw three different Vultures honing in on the dog and him running in circles, it was amazing! I could hardly believe my eyes, the birds seemed to be following the dog and my husband in a circular movement, while weaving in and out of one an others flight patterns. This was by far the most astonishing thing I have experienced in a long time. To see the non-human animals using a play-like flight motion and following the pattern of my dog and husband was what I felt a collaboration accomplishment. It proved that at least one of my rules, which I created for this project, was actually a success!

When first deciding upon this project I was highly skeptical of actually being able to collaborate with an animal in someway. By the end of this project I am ecstatic that I pushed myself with this specific project or else I would not have had the amazing experience that I did.

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