Dozens of vultures got stranded in the waters of the Florida Keys. What happened?

David Goodhue, Miami Herald on

Published in Outdoors

Mass whale and dolphin strandings are common in the Keys. But turkey vultures?

Those scary birds that circle above their lifeless prey, then dive-bomb to feast on dead flesh, roadkill and rotting stuff in the dumpster down below?

It's rare, but vulture strandings are a thing. One happened on Monday, according to local marine mammal rescue nonprofit Dolphin Research Center on Grassy Key.

Workers at the center were out conducting research in the water on the Gulf of Mexico side of Marathon, in the Middle Keys, when they noticed a vulture struggling in the water just offshore.

They called the Marathon Wild Bird Center, and workers there told them that when there's one vulture in the water, there's usually more.

And there were. Dozens more.


"Sure enough, they were all over the place," said Kelly Grinter, director of the bird center.

The rescue

The Dolphin Research Center team went to work on the water and gathered almost 30 of the 60 struggling scavenger birds. The others were rescued by officers with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and local fishermen, Grinter said.

"Turkey vultures don't swim, so staff took them on board and contacted Marathon Wild Bird Center to evaluate the birds," said dolphin center spokeswoman Allie Proskovec.


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