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Where and how - Questions answered
Corinne Kendall — in East Africa Project    Share

It is not just the where of vulture movement that we learn from the GSM-GPS units, it is also the how.  How far does a vulture travel in a day?  At what speed might it average while soaring above the savannas?

Previous efforts to answer this question were done in the air.  Dr. Pennycuick used an ultralight, a small aircraft with a propeller and a glider, to follow the vultures. He would fly next to flocks of soaring vultures and follow them as they travelled from roost to foraging grounds. During his flights, he estimated that vultures travel about 45 km/hr during long distance travels.

Soaring White-backed VultureWith the new movement technology, we can get a bird's eye view on the questions that Dr. Pennycuick was trying to answer, but without disturbing the birds. Rather than hovering next to a flying vulture, I can literally sit a continent away and check the downloaded information from the text messages that my birds have sent.  Our recent data shows that vultures can fly over 100 km/hr and easily travel 100 km in a single day.  Who would have expected a bird the size of turkey, which is not generally known for its speed, is travelling as fast as a car on the highway as it soars across the Kenyan wilderness?

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