This Black Vulture was first spotted in Burgeo on Nov.18.
© Ken KnowlesThis Black Vulture was first spotted in Burgeo on Nov.18.
When Ken Knowles saw a photo of a Black Vulture turn up in the Newfoundland Birdwatching Group on Facebook, he thought it must have been posted by someone from outside the province.

Then he read the text.

"I immediately went into a panic," said Knowles, who has been an avid birdwatcher for the past 45 years. "Then I started scheming about how I was going to get to see this bird."

The photo had been taken on Nov. 18 by Burgeo resident Mitchell Billard, who was looking for help identifying the strange-looking bird that was sitting on his roof.

As far as Knowles knows, this is the first time a Black Vulture sighting has been reported on the island of Newfoundland.

The scavenger usually ranges from Uruguay in South America to the southeastern United States, with birds also turning up as far north as New England or southern Canada.

"They're a bird that's reluctant to cross open water, so the chances of one coming here are so slim."

Knowles made the 900-kilometre drive from St. John's to Burgeo over two days, arriving in the remote south coast community at dawn on Nov. 20 to maximize his chances of spotting it.

It wasn't long before he ran into another bird enthusiast who had also made the drive from St. John's, but the Black Vulture was nowhere to be found.

"I hadn't been to Burgeo before and I was surprised by what a widely spread out town it was, so after a couple of hours of looking we were starting to despair that we were ever going to find the thing," he told CBC Radio's Corner Brook Morning Show.

He kept going back to a coastal area — known locally as the Trailer Park — where the bird had been seen the day before.

"I don't know where it came from, I was just standing there looking around and had almost given up hope, then this huge thing flapped in, it has these big long wings and it flaps very slowly," he said.

"I was so excited I just about had a heart attack."

There were strong winds from the southeast the day before the bird was first spotted, and Knowles suspects it got caught in the wind and blown over the ocean, with Newfoundland being its first opportunity to land.