The only bird we saw in every state was the Turkey Vulture. No vast kettles, yet, only ones and twos. But the turkey vultures would certainly leave the places we saw them – Montana, North Dakota, Illinois and Indiana, Pennsylvania and Ohio and eventually New York – and head south. Maybe only to the southern borders of the same state in the case of some of the Pennsylvania birds, maybe down beyond the limits of the US through Central America for the westerners.

Unlike me, they did not have a UHaul truck or the benefit of Motel 6 (in places where that was in fact a benefit – in Bismarck, the oil boom also destroyed my habitat by ensuring there were no beds available on an entirely average Monday night.) Unlike me, they probably do not worry too much about the concept of home and where that actually is if you follow the promise of fresh carrion and warm air currents here and there across a continent or more in search of a main chance. It’s a good thing Turkey Vultures cannot write, or they’d probably be better at this than me – more widely experienced, more patient, and better at using carrion as a metaphor in the first place (it’s a metaphor for success, you guys. Get it?) But for now, just in time for a fall migration that seems, so far, to consist mostly of a single Marbled Godwit at Jamaica Bay and those few dispersing Turkey Vultures, I’m back in New York, four years and small change after leaving it behind.


The carrion smells promising here.

Images courtesy of the USFWS.

Written by Carrie
Carrie Laben, after years of writing and birding in New York, moved to Montana to pursue her two great passions more effectively. She recently graduated with an MFA in Creative Nonfiction from the University of Montana in Missoula. When she is not cranking out essays and speculative fiction stories, or wandering around on mountains failing to see the birds she is looking for, she is likely to be drinking one of the many fine local microbrews or attending a potluck with something from the local farmer’s market in hand. On Mondays from 3 to 3:30 Mountain Time you can find her answering questions about birds on live chat at