(ORDO NEWS) — Vultures are famous travelers among birds, but before scientists did not even suspect how vast distances they fly in search of carrion.
With the help of special GPS tags, they managed to track the movements of several birds and found out that in just a week of flight they are able to cover over a thousand kilometers.
Carrion is not easy to find, even in the teeming savannah, and African vultures are forced to fly great distances looking for a suitable carcass from the air.
Thanks to their wide wings, they skillfully use the ascending currents and circle above the ground for hours, hoping to find the remains of a lion’s meal or the corpse of an animal that died from an illness.
Although vultures are not of particular interest to African hunters (but they sometimes still get them using voodoo practices ), their numbers continue to decline rapidly.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature has already recognized this species as critically endangered.
The main reasons for such a sad situation for this bird are habitat destruction, death on power lines and poisoning with various chemicals used in agriculture.
To understand how far a vulture can fly in search of food and, accordingly, what risks it is exposed to, scientists attached GPS tags to 26 birds to track their movements.
The results were amazing: one of the vultures managed to overcome over 1,200 kilometers in a week, visiting eight African countries at once – from the Democratic Republic of the Congo in the north to the Republic of South Africa in the south.
The scientists also found that although vultures spend more than half of their time – about 64 percent – in protected areas, they often fly outside national parks in search of food, but avoid areas where there are the largest concentrations of herds of domestic animals.
Vultures do not seem to consider cattle as a source of food or, more likely, they avoid being in areas of high population density, even if that means additional searches.
During the month of the dry season, the bird is able to fly up to 3000 kilometers, but in the rainy season this figure drops to 2251 kilometers.
Despite such mobility, vultures always return to the same place for the period of rearing offspring. So, despite the travels made by individual birds, vulture populations remain virtually isolated from each other.
Now scientists have to mark the most important regions for feeding vultures in order to take additional measures to protect them.
Since these birds usually forage in large groups, even a single carcass containing, for example, the anti-inflammatory drug diclofenac (which is not dangerous to ungulates, but deadly to birds), can lead to mass deaths among vultures.
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