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Why vultures lurk near you on dark streets

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Oct 29, 2021 – If you think you will see a vulture when you do trick or treating, it may not be your imagination. According to a GPS analysis of their movements, which in Scientific reports.

This unusual roost choice could explain why US black vulture and turkey vulture populations have increased dramatically over the past half century or so, while many other bird species have declined dramatically as the suburbs expanded. Vultures, as unattractive as they may be, are important to ecosystems and to us because they eat dead things, recycle nutrients and contain disease. In other words, suburban streets can be a hodgepodge.

Scientists have long suspected that these animals could adapt better to man-made landscapes than other birds. To see if vultures really thrive in habitats altered by human activity, a team of US Department of Agriculture researchers studied GPS satellite tracking data from 11 black vultures and seven turkey vultures along the coast of South Carolina for nearly 8,000 nights.

Most often, they found that the birds nest near roads. They rejected busy back streets or dusty back streets, preferring instead a middle street, like the streets that usually run through suburbs, surrounded by a mixture of natural landscapes and man-made structures.

Although the study didn’t aim to find out why vultures prefer roadside roosts, scientists suspect that these places give them a boost when these large birds need to move. The warmer surface of asphalt and concrete can create thermal currents that lift them up.

Easy access to food can be another roadside attraction for vultures as roadkill makes for a good meal, the researchers note.


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