Turkey Vulture

The Facts

  • Genus/Species: Cathartes aura
  • Conservation Status: Least concern
  • Location: In the United States and throughout most of the New World

Turkey Vulture
Turkey Vulture
Turkey Vulture
Turkey Vulture
Turkey Vulture
Turkey Vulture

The Scoop

Efficient Scavengers

Turkey vultures are sometimes called buzzards. They are found in a wide range of habitats from deserts to savannas and grasslands, to tropical and temperate forests. The name turkey is given to them due to the bald, red head that closely resembles that of a wild turkey. Their feet closely resemble the feet of a chicken and are especially designed to hold food in place while eating. Turkey vultures do not have vocal organs - they can only hiss and grunt. A hiss is made when they sense danger and feel threatened. On the other hand, a grunt is made either when they are hungry or while courting. Turkey vultures are very gentle and non aggressive birds

The turkey vulture has a body length of around 2 feet, with a wingspan of 5 to 6 feet and weighs around 5 pounds. Turkey vultures are almost entirely carrion eaters and feed on medium-sized dead animals. These birds use their sight and acute sense of smell to find food during low level soaring flights. They are efficient scavengers, cleaning up the countryside of dead animals. The turkey vulture's digestive system has the unique ability to kill any virus and bacteria in the food the bird eats. Its bald head serves an important purpose, while it eats carrion. If the need arises, turkey vultures can also live on vegetation. Turkey vultures are not endangered in any way.


Did You Know?

  • The turkey vulture is one of the few birds of prey that are able to use their sense of smell to locate food.
  • Turkey vultures are the only scavenger birds that can't kill their prey. They eat prey that is already dead.
  • If cornered by a human or animal, the turkey vulture may roll over and play dead, or project offensive smelling vomit as a defense.
  • Turkey Vultures urinate on their legs. As the vultures do not perspire like humans, the act of urinating on the legs helps to cool themselves in summer. At the same time, the strong acids of its urine kill bacteria on the legs.


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