Turkey Vulture Tracking


In June 2018 Coastal Raptors and Hawk Mountain Sanctuary Association (https://www.hawkmountain.org/) launched an initiative where GPS satellite transmitters were attached to four Turkey Vultures on the Washington coast (https://coastalraptors.com/NotesfromtheField/fieldnotes18summer.aspx). 

You can follow the movements of the “Fab Four” online at the website Movebank. We use bird names on the Movebank site to identify individuals rather than wing tag codes. See the table below for the names given the Washington vultures.  See the instructions below for how to use Movebank and how to download movement data to Google Earth.  

Viewing Turkey Vulture Movements 


Using Movebank

Note: Directions below are adapted from information provided for using Movebank on the Hawk Mountain Sanctuary Association website.

1.     Go to https://www.movebank.org/

2.     Click "Browse Tracks" in the middle of the screen.

3.     On Search line type "Turkey Vulture” (in quotes, as shown here!), then click on the Search Button. Note that to track the New World Vulture study at Hawk Mountain, which includes the four vultures satellite-tagged in Washington in collaboration with Coastal Raptors, select Turkey Vulture Acopian Center USA GPS (4th one down on the list).

4.     For this selection, click on the small gray box to the left of Turkey Vulture Acopian Center USA GPS.  A map of all of Hawk Mountain Sanctuary tracked birds will appear.  

5.     Click on the green highlighted "+" sign to open a list of all birds tracked by the Acopian Center (a will appear).

6.     Uncheck the ” next to Turkey Vulture Acopian Center USA GPS so that individual birds may be selected.


Turkey Vultures wing-tagged and satellite-tagged in Washington in 2018 in a collaborative project between Hawk Mountain Sanctuary Association and Coastal Raptors.



Wing-tag code





June 1

North side of Grays Harbor, 3 mi W of Hoquiam



June 2

On beach 1.3 mi north of Grayland



June 5

Airport at Ocean Shores. Note: Airy's signal suddenly stopped on Aug. 5, 2018, two months after transmissions started (we believe he was shot). His path may be followed online for that two month period. 

Artful Dodger


June 6

Airport at Ocean Shores


7.     To highlight the movements of one vulture, scroll to the vulture name and click in the center of the box. The box will turn blue-gray and all the points for that vulture will be connected by a blue line on the map. Click on the magnifying glass to zoom into points. The red "+" sign designates the first location of the bird and a green "+" designates the last location.

8.     You can move around the map by holding the left mouse button and dragging your mouse in any direction.

9.     You can zoom in and out on the map by clicking the +/- icons on the lower right of the map or by using the wheel on your mouse. 

10.  You can change the background by clicking the Satellite button at the top of the map.  The default is Terrain view.



Using Google Earth


Advantages of exporting the data to Google Earth


       a. Location point data are transmitted once per hour from 5:00 AM to 10:00 PM Pacific STANDARD Time (PST). You can        select points on the Google Earth map and find point information (of most interest are point date/time and point latitude/longitude).

       b. You have the option to set the time to the Study Area Time, which for this research is the Pacific Time Zone.  Movebank uses Coordinated Universal Time (= UTC; formerly Greenwich Mean Time). UTC is 7 hours ahead of the Pacific Time Zone during Daylight Savings Time and 8 hours ahead during Standard Time.




11.     Export data by clicking on the small gray information box with the "i" just left of the magnifying glass on the highlighted line for the bird you would like to follow. (Note that the Times shown are UTC, not Pacific Times). In this view, the “n=xxxx” between the Bird Name and the Species Name, Cathartes aura, is the number of Locations currently in the Deployment. Of course that number will be updated the next time you look at it.


 The window that pops up after clicking on the information box is shown below and includes the Bird Name, Species Name and Deployment Interval (the Date and Time of the first signal recorded after the Bird was instrumented and released and the Date and Time of the last known Location; Note these Dates/Times are UTC).


12.  Click on the blue-colored "Download Search Result" link (see below). 



  13. The “Download tracking data” window shown below will pop up. View a Bird’s movements by clicking on “GoogleEarth (Tracks)".  To also see Dates and Times of signals reported in the Pacific Time Zone (time zone of the research project), click on “Add study local time”.  If you want to view a Bird’s movements for a portion of the Dates the Bird has been monitored (for example, year to date), the window has an option “Filter by date”.  If this box is unchecked, all Locations since the beginning of the study are provided. To see a specific range of Dates, click on “Filter by date” and select a range of Dates using the “From” and “To” options provided.


14.     Finally, click the “Download” button.

15.     You can now save the file or open it directly into Google Earth. Note that you must have Google Earth on your computer and an internet connection to do this. Keep in mind if you save a download that it will not be updated with newer data. You will need to download again for newer information.

16.  Google Earth will load a map of all the locations for the chosen Bird.  If you hover the cursor over a point it should turn into an arrow. Click and a table will pop up with information showing date, time, latitude and longitude of the point. If you move the cursor over a Point and it turns to a four-headed arrow, there are multiple data points; click and additional Points will appear.  Click a Point and a table will pop up.  Table will show Date, Time, Latitude, Longitude, “Tag ID”, and “Animal ID” for the Point.  The “Timestamp” at the top is the Date and Time in Coordinated Universal Time (UTC/GMT).  The “Study Local Timestamp” at the bottom is the Date and Time in “Study Timezone: Pacific Time”, which in the Summer Pacific Daylight Time is UTC/GMT -7 Hours. In Winter Pacific Standard Time is UTC/GMT -8 Hours.