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Wintertime turkey vultures are somewhat rare

We saw four turkey vultures flying around in lazy circles between Jacksonville and Medford a couple weeks ago. Aren't they supposed to be slurping on road-kill iguanas way down south this time of year? Or do they know something we don't?

— Paul F., Applegate

You certainly have a keen eye for turkey vultures, Paul.

Jeff Tufts, a website developer with the Rogue Valley Audubon Society and a bird-watcher, said there have been more sightings of turkey vultures this winter, particularly near a grove of cottonwood trees off Highway 238 as you’re going into Jacksonville.

Sometimes, one or two turkey vultures are spotted, but there have been more sightings this year.

“It’s unusual but not rare,” he said.

Turkey vultures can endure cold temperatures, but since they eat carrion, it’s difficult to get a good meal when the meat is frozen, Tufts said.

“They like to move out of cold weather when dead animals are frozen solid,” Tufts said.

Many turkey vultures hang out in Central California during the winter, he said. The coast is also a popular destination for turkey vultures, Tufts said.

Linda Kreisman, chairman of the Rogue Valley Audubon Society, looked up turkey vultures in the society’s book, "Birds of Jackson County, Oregon."

According to the book, turkey vultures are rarely seen in January. November and December are two months when the vultures are scarce locally.

By the beginning of February, they start returning, and in the first week of March, they start returning in droves, Kreisman said.

“People have been seeing them more and more this year,” she said. “But they usually only see one or two.”

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