Buzzard protection focus of Savannah River Ecology Lab study

Wednesday, Dec. 25, 2013 6:42 PM
Last updated 11:01 PM
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Birds that get their sustenance from eating dead animals are the focus of a local study aimed at keeping them alive.

Amanda Holland, a University of Georgia Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources graduate student, helps tag a vulture.  SPECIAL
SPECIAL
Amanda Holland, a University of Georgia Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources graduate student, helps tag a vulture.

Vultures, or scavenging birds that feed on carrion, have been on the decline in recent decades in many places across the globe. Jim Beasley, an assistant research scientist at the Savannah River Ecology Laboratory, wants to make sure that buzzards stick around in Georgia and South Carolina.

“Vultures are one of the species people tend to turn a blind eye to. They don’t have a lot of relevance to people,” said Beasley, one of several scientists leading a study that’s looking for a method to protect vultures.

“(Vultures) play a very important role in recycling dead materials which also plays a role in reducing disease-transmission risks,” he said.

Airports have proven to be dangerous locations for buzzards because of the methods sometimes used to disperse them, Beasley said.

An acoustic hailing device – a long-range loud speaker that sends a directional-specific sound beam and is sometimes used by the U.S. Navy to hail ships – could be the nonlethal solution to the problem.

In the past year, Beasley’s team has trapped about 100 Black and Turkey Vultures at Savannah River Site. Most were tagged with wing tags, and about 20 received solar-powered GPS transmitters that send the buzzards’ location and altitude nearly every minute. Another 100 to 200 will be marked in coming months, in addition to ducks and seagulls.

“All the species we’ve selected are risk-specific for collisions with aircraft,” Beasley said.

An acoustic hailing device will be used to call back the tagged birds to determine what proportion of vultures return and if the devices are useful to call birds away from airports without killing them. Beasley’s research team is collaborating with the USDA National Wildlife Research Center and the Federal Aviation Administration.

Protecting vultures in Georgia and South Carolina could help prevent an ecological crisis like that in other parts of the world where some vultures were nearly extinct, Beasley said. The California condor found on the west coast of the U.S. narrowly escaped extinction in the 1980s. In Asia, vultures dramatically died off because they were eating livestock treated with a drug that has since been banned because of the declining vulture population.

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Little Lamb
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Little Lamb 12/26/13 - 08:01 am
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Wind Turbines

Those power-generating windmills clustered in giant wind farms are doing a lot of the killing. Who is going to study that?

Dixieman
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Dixieman 12/26/13 - 10:09 am
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Wind turbines

are actually "bird blenders". O administration has given them an exemption from Endangered Species Act -- surprise, surprise. And these things actually kill bald eagles! Liberal hypocrisy strikes again.

corgimom
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corgimom 12/26/13 - 10:45 am
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You know, you just can't

You know, you just can't please some people.

They don't want nuclear power, electrical power, coal power, and apparently, don't want wind power, either. They complain loud and long about their power bills increasing, but then complain about wind power.

You wonder just what would be acceptable to them, I sure don't know.

Dixieman
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Dixieman 12/26/13 - 01:42 pm
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corgimom -

Au contraire, I know exactly what I want. Nuclear, coal generated, hydro or solar (the last is not really practical yet, but when solar storage improves I will welcome it). Geothermal is good if you live in the right place (i.e. Iceland). Wind turbines are the worst. Ugly, noisy, fatal to birds and don't really generate a lot of power.
Why do you think I do not know what I want?

itsanotherday1
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itsanotherday1 12/26/13 - 12:36 pm
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Corgi, you are really

Corgi, you are really describing the eco-nuts. If the different greenie factions had their way, dams would be demolished to save the snail darter, wind farms eliminated to save birds and whatever lizard whose habitat is being disturbed, solar because of the associated nasty storage batteries, coal because of emissions, and nuclear for waste. I'm sure there are those opposed to geothermal for reasons unknown to me, and any other energy generators.

Little Lamb
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Little Lamb 12/26/13 - 01:25 pm
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Geothermal

The eco-nuts are opposed to geothermal energy because it is non-renewable. Once you extract the heat from the rocks deep below the surface, you can never put the heat back.

SGT49
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SGT49 12/26/13 - 02:34 pm
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I don't expect vultures to go

I don't expect vultures to go extinct very soon. We elect enough of them.

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