Friday, November 26, 2010

Turkey Vulture Migration

An ominously large amount of Turkey Vultures have been seen in the skies recently (see photos below) and fortunately this time it isn’t due to a large amount of dead bodies in the vicinity. It is the time of the year that the Turkey Vulture migration sends thousands of the birds South to varying parts of South America. This widespread bird’s range extends all the way from Canada to Tierra del Fuego.

At Jalova we are used to seeing the Black, Turkey and occasional King Vulture on the beach. They love to eat leftovers from turtles killed by Jaguars and also the occasional hatchling as it makes it way to sea. However all on base have been in awe of the sheer number of birds in the sky and the throng makes its way down South. Arno van Heygen managed to catch the action on video, which goes some way to show the movement.
On their journey the vultures can be joined by hawks, most notably Swainson’s Hawk or Broad-winged Hawks. They seem to effortlessly glide down the coastline using thermals to increase their altitude for minimal effort. Some of the birds will stay here to winter but they will find themselves lower down the pecking order than Black Vultures, which generally have the rule of our beach.

Turkey Vulture – Cathartes aura
Black Vulture – Coragyps atratus
King Vulture – Sarcoramphus papa
Swainson’s Hawk – Buteo swainsoni
Broad-winged Hawk – Buteo platypterus