Turkey Vultures at East Sooke Park

Turkey Vulture Kettle
East Sooke Regional Park. "A" marks Beechey Head.

The fall migration of Turkey Vultures (Cathartes aura) is still under way at East Sooke Regional Park near Victoria, British Columbia. Beechey Head is an ideal place to spend a sunny afternoon hawk and vulture watching.

Beechey Head is a choke point for raptors on Vancouver Island that are moving south in the fall. Here the turkey vultures pile up waiting for favourable conditions to cross the Strait of Juan de Fuca at its narrowest point (see the Google map to the right). In addition to turkey vultures, it is also possible to see a wide range of other raptors at Beechey Head.

Viewing in Late September

While the viewing is better in late September you are likely to see hawks and turkey vultures into early October. On Saturday afternoon I took my two budding bird watchers (2 years and 4.5 months old) out to Beechey Head to see if there were any birds. The day was warm and shortly after we arrived a venue of about 20 turkey vultures formed a kettle and started spiraling slowly upward.

Turkey vultures are distinctive looking birds in the air because their wings form a “V” shape called a dihedral. Since vultures are poor fliers but excellent gliders, they attempt to gain as much height as possible before beginning the long glide south across the Strait of Juan de Fuca to the other side. At Beechey Head they slowly spiral upward on pockets of warm air called thermals to gain elevation.

We sat and enjoyed the sun on the top of Beechey Head and watched these amazing birds. After a while, my children let me know that it was time to begin our own migration back to the car. Hopefully when they’re a little older we’ll be able to spend a little more time experiencing this wonderful feat of migration!

For more information about turkey vultures check out these great web sites:

Use the interactive Google Map below to find your way to East Sooke Regional Park and Beechey Head.

Beechey Head