Remember, always check a dead bird for a band!!!
If you find a banded bird or observe a colour-banded bird report it to: www.reportband.gov

Monday, September 3, 2007

Turkey Vulture Tagging


Within the last 30 years Turkey Vultures have been become increasingly common here in Saskatchewan. Normally this species nests in natural caves. You can imagine how many natural caves there are in the prairies.... Today, Turkey Vultures are learning and adapting to fit into the modern day prairie ecosystem. Instead of only using natural caves they are now using old abandoned buildings to nest in, like this one.


Today there are around 100 known Turkey Vulture nest sites in the province, and the person studying these birds is Dr. Stuart Houston, along with his crew: Marten Stoffel, Brent Tarry and Mike Bloom. They are tagging the birds, or placing a cattle-ear-tag-like tag on the nestlings wing so they can track these young birds. They can clip the tag to the birds wing without drawing any blood. The tag is (hopefully) permanent and can be read with binoculars as the bird is perched or flying over.
You might ask why can't you simply band the birds just like we do other birds. Vultures are unique in that to cool themselves they defecate down their legs. Mixed with an aluminum band this creates a build up of cement like substance that can cause lesions on the leg as well as deformities. For this reason, banders are not allowed to place a band on a Turkey Vulture, and patagial tags are the best thing instead. They are flexible and do not cause any problems for the bird as far as we know.



The question behind this tagging program is to try and discover how old Turkey Vultures are when they begin to breed. There is only one record of a Turkey Vulture of known age breeding at 11 years of age, but it is speculated that the birds may start breeding around 6 or 7 years of age. But again this is the question this project is trying to answer.



It is not believed the increase of Vultures in Saskatchewan has any negative effects on the environment. The birds eat dead animals and therefore are great for cleaning up the countryside of dead rotting meat. They are fantastic scavengers!

So make sure you watch for those huge black birds as they soar over the prairies (they have nearly a 6 foot wingspan!) and of course watch for those wing tags!!!!


13 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hey Jared- thanks for the information on Turkey Vultures. I've always hoped to see majestically soaring. Is it likely their range extends as far north as Prince Albert in Saskatchewan? Sometimes I get excited that birds I'm seeing may be the vultures, when it's also possible I'm only seeing ravens (quite a difference I'm sure-- only an amateur birder)

Jared B. Clarke said...

Hi,

Sorry about the delayed response.
Yes, Turkey Vultures are expanding up to PA and are seen up there quite regularly in the summer. The easiest way to distinguish a TUVU from something like a Raven or eagle is by 2 characteristics. The wings of a flying TUVU are not flat across the back, but rather form a noticable V. In other words instead of the tips of the wings being level with the body in flight, they are much higher then the body. The other characteristic is the two tones of the underside of a TUVU. You will notice the body and underwings are jet black, but the the flight feathers of the wing (the really big feathers used to fly) are actually a more metallic black or even grey. Does that make sense? Check out some photos on the web of soaring TUVU and you will see what I mean! Good luck in finding them!

Dudster said...

I just watched 3 TUVU soaring over Arcola Ave. east in Regina at 6:30
April 14th 2009.

Jared B. Clarke said...

Cool Dudster.
I just saw my first Turkey Vulture today!

Anonymous said...

I have 7 sitting in a tree across the road from my house in Regina Beach. What a sight. I have no knowledge of them as I am new to Canada but some kind people educated me. Aparently they were here last year as well.

Jared B. Clarke said...

Hi,

The Turkey Vultures like the updrafts coming off the side of the valley, so they use these as mirgration corridors - so they don't have to use as much energy flapping, they simply soar. That would be quite the sight to see 7 in a tree! Likely resting up during the night. Turkey Vultures, to the best of our knowledge only migrate during the day. We don't get big groups of vultures up in SK since they have dispersed a fair bit by the time they get here, but in Mexico during fall migration the sky will literally be filled with soaring vultures. The largest count of Turkey Vultures in Veracruz, Mexico at a hawk watching station was 707,798 in just ONE day!

robin said...

Saw a turkey today in Beauval sask.
today I IIIsaw one last year in big river last may 21 2008.Is this the furthest north they have been seen?

Anonymous said...

Just on our deck in Buena Vista when two of these birds flew onto our neighbors roof. We have never seen them In Saskatchewan. One of the tags # was A43

Anonymous said...

I just spotted 3 vultures perched on fence posts in one of our pastures by Elbow, Sask. The tags were very visible but I didn't record the #'s.

Novakane said...

I tried to record the number of one two miles south of Bruno today but couldn't get close enough

Anonymous said...

We have two in our backyard in Leader. No bands on either

Anonymous said...

We have eight vultures in our yard today . One is tagged on the wing the number is 656 Our land is three miles west of Fort QuAppelle Sask.

Anonymous said...

Hi there I just photographed a Turkey Vulture near Margo Sask. with a tag # T63... there were 2 Vultures together feeding on a dead skunk but I was only able to identify the one tag#... wonderful experience to see these fabulous and interesting birds.