WATERVILLE — A turkey vulture was released Wednesday near where it was captured a week earlier after flying down an exhaust stack and into a boiler room at the former Seton Hospital in Waterville.

Staff at a bird sanctuary where the vulture was taken after its capture said it might have been looking for nesting places when it perched on the tall stack, lost its balance and tumbled down, entering the boiler room through a vent.

After a couple of days, the building manager contacted Waterville Animal Control Officer Chris Martinez, who tried to capture the large black-and-gray bird on March 31 using a 23-foot painter’s pole with a net taped to it.

But the boiler room ceilings are about 30 feet high and the vulture avoided capture. Martinez called Avian Haven, a wild bird rehabilitation center in Freedom, staffer Terry Heitz arrived to help and the two were able to catch the bird.

Avian Haven co-founders Marc Payne and Diane Winn said Thursday that the turkey vulture was uninjured. It was put into a large flight cage before being released.

“We just wanted to make sure he was well-fed before he left here, because we weren’t sure how long he’d been in the building,” Winn said. “He was doing fine, eating very well. They’re scavengers. They’ll eat just about anything, but they seem to prefer food that is dead, so he was fed leftovers of various kinds – mice, rats, chicken, fish. Whatever the eagles didn’t want, we’d give it to the vulture and he’d clean it up.”

Heitz drove the vulture back to the Seton campus Wednesday because that is where it roosted with a lot of other turkey vultures.

“Evidently, there’s quite a large group of turkey vultures in that neighborhood, and we got a couple of comments on our Facebook page from people who see quite a group of them,” Winn said. “So he or she has buddies there and maybe a mate or a prospective mate. We basically just wanted to get the bird back to its group of friends.”

Martinez videotaped Heitz as he released the bird from a cardboard box.

“I think it was a good ending,” he said. “I’m just surprised about how it got down that smokestack. It was kind of an odd situation. It’s not something you see every day.”

Winn said she does not know whether the bird will know enough to stay off the smokestack, which is about 100 feet tall and a popular perch for birds.

“We certainly hope that he would learn from past experience and be a little more careful,” she said.

Amy Calder can be contacted at 861-9247 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17

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