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GLAD YOU ASKED: Turkey vultures migrating through Mitchell

Q: Why do turkey vultures show up every spring over Mitchell?

A: According to Julie DeJong, regional wildlife manager for the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Department, turkey vultures are migrating through the area right now.

"They can usually be found flying in small groups or even roosting together," she said in an email response. "They also use the updrafts from water towers, other high structures and hilly areas to take flight. Vultures are one of the few birds that actually have a good sense of smell because the part of their brain that is used for smell is larger than other birds. They use scent to find their main prey -- carrion, which is the decaying flesh of an animal. They take advantage of road kills, winter kills and other carcasses.

"Turkey vultures have been known to eat the remains of lots of things, such as deer, skunks, rabbits and even cow manure and rotten pumpkins. Turkey vultures have started pushing their way north, but 100 years ago, they were only found in southern states. The increase in deer populations and warmer climates have probably both played a part in their range expansion. They will nest in South Dakota, but aren't very good nest builders. They may just scrape some grass or leaves together on the ground, on cliffs or hillsides, or take over an unused hawk nest."

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