Turkey Vulture

Turkey Vulture

Class: Aves
Order: Falconiformes
Family: Cathartidae
Taxonomic Name: Cathartes aura
 
Range: Southern Canada through southern South America. The northern birds will migrate south in the winter.
 
Habitat: Easily adapt to various habitats such as forest, woodlands, and farmlands. They tend to show a preference for dead trees. They roost in large congregations in secluded woods.
 
Physical Characteristics: Wingspan: 6', Length: 27" Turkey vultures are large birds with black feathers on their body. The head is red and has very few feathers on it. The immature birds have a black head and white downy feathers on the body.
 
Longevity: Average in the wild is 17 years
 
Social Structure: Gregarious; spending most of their time in large groups.
 
Active Time: Diurnal
 
Diet:    Wild - Turkey vultures will eat any type of carrion (dead animals) including skunks. They will occasionally hunt for their food.
Zoo - Mice and chicken legs.
 
Behavior: Turkey vultures are very social and will roost and fly in groups. They will sail for hours high in the sky, rocking slightly from side to side and holding their wings in a shallow V (unlike eagles which hold them straight out). They flap their wings mainly when seeking updrafts at low altitudes. When threatened, they will vomit as a defense mechanism. Their vomit has a very nauseating smell, which will chase away most would be predators.
 
Reproduction: Turkey vultures lay their eggs in hollow trees, rock crevices, or on the ground under cover. They do not build a nest. Usually lay two eggs.
 
Interesting Facts: 
  • To compensate for having weak feet, the turkey vulture has a very sharp beak.
  • They are thought to be very intelligent birds.
Turkey Vulture