Fall Migration is Well Underway for Turkey Vultures

On September 29 I received an email from Brent Angelo of Vancouver, Washington. Last winter I was in touch with Brent following a Turkey Vulture sighting that he had made of one of our wing-tagged birds. This time around Brent shared his sightings of Turkey Vultures on migration, from his backyard no less!

Backyard view of the Turkey Vulture migration above Vancouver, Washington. Brent Angelo photo.

Quoting Brent’s email: Around 10:30am, I noticed a Vulture going by in the East… With this one, I saw a few behind it and they were heading south. I was like cool. Then another one…then another one…all of sudden from the North, there was a huge group flying this way. They all had similar looks, soaring south, then at a certain point they would ride a thermal, and then there was almost a tornado of flying vultures. It was a trip. It went off and on for like 2 hours. It was not easy to count, but I would get pictures of 20-25 in a single shot. There were onesies, twosies at times and then another big group.

Turkey Vulures soaring in a thermal updraft. Brent Angelo photo.

Brent posted these photos and more on the website eBird. In the post he reported that he saw 125 Turkey Vultures in total over the time he was watching and taking photos.

Big picture view of the location in Vancouver, Washington where Brent observed the Turkey Vultures headed south on migration.
Some of the Turkey Vultures passed by his vantage point as singltons. Brent Angelo photo.

Two days after his initial observations, on October 2, Brent wrote again. He indicated that he’d seen another bunch of Turkey Vultures passing overhead, this time 50 in the span of half an hour.

Brent’s observations and those of many others have shown that Turkey Vultures migrate together, if not initially certainly as they make their way south. Birds of a feather flock together, taking advantage of themal updrafts to soar with little effort along the way. Departing birds don’t all leave on the same date. The passage of Turkey Vultures on migration takes weeks. And individual bird departure dates vary from year to year.

Cases in Point: Turkey Vultures Coy and Grayland. Coastal Rptors fitted these two with transmitters in 2018 in collaboration with the Hawk Mountain Sanctuary Association. As of October 3, 2023, Coy has initiated migration but Grayland has not. The screenshots below from the app Animal Tracker tell the story.

Coy’s movement pattern for two weeks, September 19 to October 3, 2023. Coy started his migration on October 1. Each year since 2018, Coy has summered in western Washington, then migrated south. Coy’s average departure date is October 1 (range: from Sept. 25 to Oct. 17).
Grayland’s summer range movement pattern over two weeks, September 15-29. Since 2018, Grayland has summered in southern British Columbia. Like Coy, Grayland has migrated south each fall. Grayland’s average departure date is September 30 (range: from Sept 18 to Oct 9).

Note: If you would like to see more of my Blog posts on Turkey Vultures, click on Tracking Turkey Vultures below.

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