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Turkey Vulture with wing tag
Turkey Vulture Project
This Turkey Vulture with wing tag P7, was reported & photographed by Yu-Che-Huang in Irvine on 8/7/11.
Project Description
In 2006, Pete Bloom and Scott Thomas, Jeff Kidd, and Spence Porter, trapped Turkey Vultures for a joint project with Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, PA. The purpose of the project was to track the migration routes of the vultures from their nesting grounds in the U.S. and Canada to their wintering haunts in Mexico and beyond. Other biologists across the U.S. also completed the same process so that Hawk Mountain could track vultures traveling across different regions of North America simultaneously.
Our group was tasked with trapping 5 Turkey Vultures as they passed through our area towards their breeding grounds to the north. Four migrant vultures were successfully fitted with transmitters and have been providing a wealth of information about the routes these birds travel, how far they travel, their destinations, and other information.
Though we planned to target migrating vultures in the southern California region, the first vulture we caught and fitted with a transmitter, turned out to be a local resident. Too bad we didn’t figure that out before the satellite started tracking the bird in big circles around Orange County, but it turned out well anyways. Despite the fact that the bird did not provide the information Hawk Mountain was seeking, it did provide us with some interesting data about our local vultures, including the possibility that they travel farther around southern CA than previously thought.
So, it has been valuable to follow this local bird and get satellite data, as well as a good number of sightings of the conspicuous identification marker that was installed on the bird’s wing, called a Patagial tag (P-tag), which is similar to the I.D. tags used on California Condors. These tags are easily read with binoculars or captured in print with digital cameras.
The satellite transmitter on our local vulture has unfortunately lived out its life expectancy, so we would like to retrieve the transmitter since they are very expensive, and refit the bird with a smaller, standard UHF transmitter (the type that requires a handheld receiver to track it). There is a lot of valuable information to be obtained from local vultures, including their interactions with other flocks and locating breeding locations, which is otherwise difficult to obtain.
We are attempting to re-trap the local vulture and to replace its transmitter. To do this, we will have to trap a good number of other local vultures before we get the one we want (70 have been captured in the Irvine Lake area). The trapping will provide us with the opportunity to mark a significant number of vultures with patagial tags. Additionally we will be able to contribute to a study being done by Veterinarians and Biologists at UC Davis on lead contamination levels in Turkey Vultures, ultimately to be compared with lead levels in California Condors.
So, with a good number of birds tagged, we will have ample opportunities to learn more about breeding behaviors, territory size, distance traveled, and interactions between the county’s 6-7 major groupings of vultures.

Birders, we need your help!
We are hoping you can help us by spotting the marked vultures and giving us information on your sightings.
Long time Sea and Sage member and Raptor Biologist, Peter Bloom, along with Scott Thomas and the Sea and Sage Raptor Research Program participants have been working on tracking Turkey Vultures in Orange County. To do so they have marked a good number of adult vultures with conspicuous white wing tags (called patagial tags or P-Tags), which have black alpha/numeric sequences (such as a number with a dot; 26?, or F1 on a white tag). The data from sightings will help us learn more about the behavior and breeding habits of our local Turkey Vulture populations, as well as interactions between the 6 or 7 major flocks around the county.
These tags are easily read with binoculars when the birds are perched and/or in flight. Pete and Scott are looking for information on sightings of these birds and photos when possible. We are also looking for a few individuals to adopt a Turkey Vulture roost in Orange County. We need observations taken once or twice a month at some of our traditional roosts.
Data Needed —
Your Name and Contact Info
Photos (if available)
Location of Sighting
Date of Sighting
Tag info such as: white tag with the number on left wing
Brief behavior notes such as: perched, soaring, foraging, etc.
Turkey Vulture with wing tag
This Turkey Vulture with wing tag F9, was reported & photographed by Bob Cheung in Yorba Linda in 2013.
If you see any Turkey Vultures with a wing tag – please send the information listed above to the Bird Banding Laboratory at: https://www.pwrc.usgs.gov/bbl/bblretrv/index.cfm
Please also contact Pete Bloom at , or Scott Thomas at .
If neither of these people answer, contact Nancy Kenyon at .
Your information will help the biologists learn more about the movements of these Turkey Vultures, which is pertinent information for their study. We appreciate your help!

updated 4/2/2014


Sea & Sage Audubon Society
PO Box 5447 • Irvine, CA 92616 • 949-261-7963