OLYMPIC VULTURE STUDYOLYMPIC VULTURE STUDY - 2002
Ten years counting turkey vultures has been an exciting challenge. We have verified one major migration route for the nesting/summering population of turkey vultures on Vancouver Island, the islands in the Georgia Strait, and the Sunshine Coast of British Columbia, Canada. Since 1992, we have counted nearly 16,000 turkey vultures crossing the Strait of Juan de Fuca from Vancouver Island to the northern Olympic coast of Washington state. No previous migration study had been done. While it is sure that some of the total population must island-hop through the San Juan archiapeligo, it seems the majority of the summering turkey vultures that stage at the southern tip of Vancouver Island each fall choose to cross the strait on their southward migration.
The primary goal of the study was to find the cross-strait migration route of these birds and to study it for a sufficient length of time so that numbers were viable. This was accomplished. The secondary goal was educational: to enlighten everyone who visited the watch site about turkey vultures, their migration, and their place in the scheme of things. This was done many times over.
To me, it is a very positive thing to do a study on a species that is not threatened or endangered. There cannot be too much information in this regard. Many times I have been asked “Are turkey vultures endangered?” and I am able to reply that “No, they aren’t,” and that no Federal or taxpayer money has been spent on them. Many visitors don’t know much about turkey vultures, but they do know where their tax money goes. Following are some high points of the study:
Funding for this ongoing study has been provided by the Hawk Migration Assn. of North America, the Northwest Ecological Research Institute, the Olympic Peninsula Audubon Society, and the James L. Baillie Memorial Fund of Canada.