Raptor Population Index

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Species Assessment:
Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura)

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The 10-year migration count trends for Turkey Vultures suggests mostly stable populations across North America with 72% of 64 total sites showing stable counts during this span. Increasing observations were detected for 27% of the sites. Populations are mostly stable with some increases observed in all North American regions, particularly the Northeastern states and provinces. The Central Region has observed the greatest increases with 33% of sites observing increasing (see pie charts and trend maps below). Twenty- year count trends (not shown) reflect a stable population in most regions except for the East Region which observed increases at most sites during this span (Central Region: 1 increase, 1 stable; East Region: 3 stable, 16 increase, 2 decrease; Gulf Region: 2 increase, 3 stable; West Region: 1 increase, 3 stable).

The highest counts of Turkey Vulture are observed in the Gulf Region with an average of 955,117 at Chichicaxtle, Veracruz. Great Lakes sites, such as Detroit River, Michigan, and Holiday Beach, Ontario, also recorded high average counts with 62,978 and 44,144 for annual average respectively. Increases in counts are likely reflecting the northward expansion in the nesting range of Turkey Vultures, observed over the last decade.

Winter survey data from the Christmas Bird Count (CBC) show increasing 10-year trends in numbers continent-wide with an annual percent change in population of 3.5%. The Turkey Vulture is a species of least concern throughout its range, and as obligate scavengers, they perform valuable ecosystem services for humans through carcass disposal and disease prevention. Turkey Vultures are sensitive to nest disturbance, changes in habitat, and environmental contaminants. They benefit from traditional farming practices as well as human alteration of natural habitats, taking advantage of road kills and dumps.

Turkey Vulture<br>Photo by David Brandes

Photo by David Brandes

Please cite this page as:
    D. Oleyar, D. Ethier, L. Goodrich, D. Brandes, R. Smith, J. Brown, and J. Sodergren. 2021. The Raptor Population Index: 2019 Analyses and Assessments.