By Keith L. Bildstein, Ph.D., Sarkis Acopian Director of Conservation Science
and Lindy Thompson, Ph.D., Hawk Mountain Research Associate
Hawk Mountain Sanctuary
Yes, I admit it. We name our satellite-tracked vultures.
Some of our colleagues disagree with this, arguing that naming one’s study animals “personalizes” them in ways that make our observations less scientific. But primatologist Jane Goodall and Nobel Prize laureate Konrad Lorenz named their study animals, and I have never doubted the scientific rigor of their work. Naming animals as individuals makes their individual behavior easier to remember. With more than 75 vultures tracked by satellite so far, numbers or alpha-numeric codes simply do not work as well, as names help to separate and categorize the birds in question and keep the stories of their movements in mind.
“Homebody,” a South African Hooded Vulture, is a case in point.