MSU scientist returns to community study on vultures, drawing on “citizen scientists”


Contact: Vanessa Beeson

A tagged vulture was sighted earlier this year at the Golden Triangle regional airport. Each label has a series of letters and numbers that Citizen Scientists are encouraged to bring back to researchers to help them with the study. (Photo by Adrián Naveda-Rodriguez)

STARKVILLE, Mississippi – A study conducted by the State of Mississippi using “citizen science” is entering its second year of collecting data that may ultimately provide solutions to vulture-aircraft collisions.

MSU College of Forest Resources associate professor Scott Rush said he plans to provide scientific recommendations from the analysis to alleviate this human-wildlife conflict, a common challenge for military pilots who encounter birds during take-off, landing or low-level flight. . The study is a partnership with Naval Air Station Meridian and Columbus Air Force Base, explained the researcher from the Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Aquaculture.

Relying on reports from citizens who visually spot tagged vultures, Rush’s data collection was temporarily stifled during the pandemic, impacting the time local residents spent away from home. . Now calling citizen feedback “crucial” to the project, the MSU scientist needs “more citizens to contact us if they spot a tagged vulture.”

To report a sighting, call or email Rush at 662-325-0762 or [email protected] Please include date, time, location and tag number of vultures sighted. He said observers should report sightings even if they cannot read the tag number.

“If it is possible for the observer to report how many other vultures the observed marked bird appeared with and their activity, such as foraging on roads, roosting, etc., this information is also excellent,” said said Rush, who also does research as part of the MSU Forest and Wildlife Research Center.

Rush and his team have tagged more than 200 birds, both turkeys and black vultures, in the areas around Meridian and the Golden Triangle. He explained how raptors have become more and more of a danger.

“Over the years we have seen an increase in collisions between airplanes and these birds, and it is of great concern when a conflict involves danger to human life, as well as expensive military planes,” Rush said.

“Most of the birds we tagged were caught in or around West Point. We have also tagged birds in Meridian. From information obtained from tagged birds, we know of frequent areas as far northwest as Memphis, Tennessee, and as far east as Birmingham, Alabama, although most of these remain within 30 miles from West Point or Meridian, ”he said.

Jim Copeland, Community Planning and Liaison Manager at NAS Meridian, has been involved with the project since its inception. He said tagged birds are already yielding benefits.

“In one case, as the county debated whether or not to allow a waste transfer station in the area where many jets are approaching NAS Meridian, maps showed concentrations of vultures on three sides of the river. proposed station. Since such a station would serve as an attraction for birds, the permit was not issued, ”he said.

Copeland said that while the team has good data on vultures in Lauderdale and Lowndes counties, there is a data gap in the middle, west of Scooba.

“We know there are vultures out there because we hit them at Joe Williams Field in Preston. We need to know more about birds, where they come from and where they go. If we learn where they are and why they are in that space, our jets can avoid them, ”he said.

NAS Meridian has financially supported Mississippi state research through a grant from the US offices of the Secretary of Defense and Economic Adjustment. Other partners include Lauderdale County and the Meridian Regional Airport.

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