Researchers from the Hawk Mountain Sanctuary in Pennsylvania have been studying vultures throughout the New World to see if they are effective sentinels for environmental pollutants, such as lead.
The theory, says an Associated Press article that ran in the Havasu News (AZ), is with their ability to eat and digest biological toxins, vultures may be accumulating man-made toxins as well. Testing them for toxins may reveal hot spots that can then be investigated.
A Hawk Mountain Sanctuary blog reveals that they have been at this for ten years. The big news today is that they have expanded the study in to Arizona. The hope is that information from the tough vultures will provide more information on the lead poisoning that is killing the already federally endangered California condors.
Photo: Turkey vulture, by Lee Karney, courtesy US Fish and Wildlife Service