TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — A research team helped save dozens of turkey vultures from drowning after they fell from the sky into the waters off the Florida Keys on Monday, the Miami Herald reported.
Kelly Grinter, director of Dolphin Research Center, a marine mammal rescue nonprofit, told the outlet her team was conducting research on the Gulf of Mexico side of Marathon when they saw a vulture struggling to stay above the water offshore.
They contacted the Marathon Wild Bird Center, which told them if there was one vulture in the water, there were likely more nearby.
“Sure enough, they were all over the place,” Grinter said.
The team saved about half of the 60 struggling birds from drowning. Grinter said the other ones were rescued by local fishermen and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
“Turkey vultures don’t swim, so staff took them on board and contacted Marathon Wild Bird Center to evaluate the birds,” the center’s spokeswoman Allie Proskovec explained.
Sadly, seven of the birds did not make it. Two died in the water. The other five died days later.
“The reason [for the stranding] isn’t clear, but the birds sometimes suffer blunt-force trauma from hitting the water, or simply are cold and waterlogged, without the ability to to lift themselves out of the water,” Proskovec said. “These events may be caused by a strong down draft pushing them into water.”
Aquatic strandings involving turkey vultures are rare, according to Grinter, who has only witnessed one other vulture stranding in her nearly 30 years with the center.
Turkey vultures are migratory birds that spend winter in warm subtropical and tropical areas. Although they’re not in the Keys year-round, but they help the area maintain a healthy ecosystem by removing pathogens from the environment, according to the report.