Saturday, August 15, 2009

Wing tagged Turkey Vultures

This is Turkey Vulture tagging season! 2009 marks the 7th year of TUVU tagging in Saskatchewan by Dr. Stuart Houston, Brent Terry, Marten Stoffel, and Mike Bloom.

For those who are not aware banders are not permitted to place aluminum bands on the legs of Turkey Vultures. This is because TUVU excrete their body waste down their legs to cool themselves. If you place an aluminum band on their leg, you soon get a cement like mass on their leg that can seriously cause problems for the bird. Therefore to track TUVU's we place a patagial tag on the wing. Below is an example of one of these tags.

For the last 7 years Stuart's crew has been tagging nestling TUVU in Saskatchewan. They are trying to determine when young TUVUs begin nesting. Before this study, there was only one TUVU of known age on a nest in North America, it was 11 years old at the time. To date, I don't believe there has been any records of any of the wing tagged vultures from Saskatchewan have begun successful breeding but it is expected in the next few years some light will be shed on this question.

Last week I joined Brent Terry and Marten Stoffel at Indian Head to check on a few TUVU nests in the area. Lorne Scott also joined us. He has had TUVUs nesting on his land for over 4 years now I believe. I had a great time with all three of these guys! And we met a couple of wonderful landowners as well.

If you see a TUVU with a green wing tag please report it. You can contact me, or Dr. Stuart Houston of Saskatoon, SK. Or you can report it to

Turkey Vultures are increasing in numbers in Saskatchewan. They are using old abandoned farm houses and buildings as an artificial cave to nest in. If you are in SK and have TUVUs nesting in an old abandoned building on your land, please contact either me or Stuart. Below is an example of a Turkey Vulture house that has been active north of Regina for at least the last 4 years.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Update on Cooper's Hawks in Wascana Centre

Posts have become scarce these days from me, mostly because Kristen and I just moved out to a farm near Edenwold, SK. We've bought an old farm yard, that hasn't really been lived in for over 10 years. Therefore, we have lost internet access for the time being (we've also lost phone service for at least another 1-2 months!!). Hopefully we can get internet sometime soon!

Anyways, I have been keeping an eye out for the young Cooper's Hawks in Wascana Centre. This is 0/K's nest (the male we banded in 2006).
O/K and his unbanded mate (we were unable to catch her this year...) were successful in fledging 4 young Cooper's Hawks out of the nest. We banded the young birds (o/X, 5/P, 5/V, 5/E) on July 19th.
Unfortunately, 0/X did not make it after leaving the nest. He was found dead on the ground near the nest on Aug 4th. It is unclear why he died as we watched him flying around about a week after we banded him and cause of death was not determined by our observations.

The other three girls have been hanging around still but seem to be moving further from the nest each day. They are likely being fed infrequently by their parents (if at all still) so are having to capture their own prey now.

Randy McCulloch and his friend Boyd, came down to Wascana Centre and were able to snap some good pictures of the young females with their red leg bands flying around. Here are two of those photos. Can you read their red leg bands? These are both Randy's photos. A special thank you to him for letting me post them here.

This photo I was able to snap on July 31st. The young birds were milling about on this gloomy day waiting for a prey delivery by mom or dad. I heard the male give his single "cak" call as he approached the nest area. As soon as the young birds heard this they all flew over to the tree where the male had just landed and 5/P grabbed the meal first! She allowed me to get quite close and watch as she gobbled down this Robin.