Our lab traveled to the Meadowcroft Rockshelter of the Heinz History Center to tag Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura) nestlings. The pair nested locally in a natural rock cave, where chicks can be well protected from predators and the elements. We found one healthy Turkey Vulture nestling, approximately 8 weeks old.

A farmer in the Washington area reported having Turkey Vultures nesting in his barn. Both Black and Turkey Vultures commonly nest in barns and abandoned buildings. The abundance of artificial nesting locations has contributed to the rapid growth of populations of both species. The nestlings were approximately 4 weeks old.

Turkey Vultures do not hatch with their distinctive red heads. As hatchlings they have a black head and the red then develops during the first hatch-year.

We took blood samples for our ongoing research on lead toxicity in raptors and we tagged the birds under our USGS bird banding permit. The 8-week-old nestling was old enough to be fitted with a wing tag, #255. Patagial tags are used on vultures instead of metal leg bands. This is because vultures excrete on their legs, and bands can get caked in urates, causing injury. The wing tags are also helpful because people can identify individual vultures from afar, while perched or in flight.

We returned the nestling to its home and we look forward to it fledging soon!

Vulture wing tags can be reported to info@hawkmountain.org.

Learn more about New World Vultures as Environmental Sentinels.