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Low Altitude Soaring Gives Vultures a Competitive Edge

Cara J

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Low-flying vultures may be gaining a competitive edge when it comes to sniffing out the best hunk of carrion. Researchers tracking the flying habits of turkey vultures (Cathartes aura) and black vultures (Coragyps atratus) observed the birds outside of Williamsburg, Va. using a kind of low-soaring rocking motion called contorted soaring, using weak updrafts coming off trees to soar low over the ground. “They were doing it a large percentage of the time,” said Julie Mallon, referring to turkey vultures. Mallon — lead author of a recent study published in The Auk — conducted this research during her master’s studies at the University of West Virginia. A turkey vulture. Image Credit: Julie Mallon Some populations of turkey vultures are migratory and the birds have a huge overall range spanning from Canada down the Falkland Islands off the coast of Argentina. Mallon said that they likely adapted this behavior so they can pick up the smells that lead them to carrion. This is evident because of the way turkey vulture behavior contrasts with black vultures, who rely on their vision and social cues from other black vultures when looking for carrion. There is competitive overlap between the two kinds of birds, [...]


Read more: http://wildlife.org/low-altitude-soaring-gives-vultures-a-competitive-edge/

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