Vultures roost communally at night with up to several hundred birds sharing the same structure or group of trees. Roost composition is not static, however, and birds often shift among several roost sites from one night to the next. Thus, for effective management of vulture populations, it is necessary to identify the locations of all major roosting sites within the area of interest and to document the movement patterns of the birds among roosts as well as their daily activity between the roost and their feeding sites.
The area in and around a military air base often harbors a healthy vulture population which often creates dangerous situations for pilots. While vultures are not the only threat to aviation safety, they are a major one and effective management of the vulture population will contribute substantially to lessening the risks to pilots. At Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort SC, NASA's Kennedy Space Center, Key West Naval Air Station, and Eglin Air Force Base in Niceville FL, we are documenting short- and long-term vulture movements using satellite GPS transmitters and placing ID tags on their wings intended for reporting when observed. By quantifying vulture flight patterns, locating roost sites, and identifying other key resources used by the vulture population, we will be able to develop a management approach designed to reduce the risk of vulture-aircraft interactions.
NWRC is conducting research evaluating the movements of wing-tagged vultures. Each tagged bird has a cattle ear tag in its RIGHT wing and each tag has a letter and number (ie. F47 or C20) or a series of 3 letters (ie. AMJ). The birds were marked and released in Virginia, South Carolina, and Florida, and the tags may be visible from below while the birds soar. To report sightings of tagged birds, click here.
All sightings should be sent to the email or address below indicating the location of the sighting, tag number, species, as well as any other pertinent behavioral or other information. Additionally, the USGS Bird Banding Lab in MD which maintains the central database for marked birds in the North America requests that these reports also be sent to them which can be done by going to www.reportband.gov.
Thank you for any information you may provide.
John S Humphrey
USDA/APHIS/WS/National Wildlife Research Center
2820 E University Ave
Gainesville, FL 32641