The Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura) has a featherless red head and the flight feathers are a silvery gray.
Turkey Vultures have a naked head. This prevents any feathers on the head from getting fouled by the carrion that they eat. Head feathers are very difficult to clean. Early in the morning they can be seen stretching their wings, gathering the morning sun.
Turkey Vultures don’t build a nest but lay their eggs on the ground or in a hollow stump.
Turkey vultures are carrion eaters. Turkey Vultures unlike most other birds, have a highly developed sense of smell. They find their food with a keen sense of smell. The nostril of the Turkey Vulture is oval. If the right light and setting, you can see through the nostril. I suspect that this aids their sense of smell.
The Latin name, Cathartes aura, means “Golden purifier”. Turkey Vultures are immune to botulism and other organisms in carrion that would kill other animals. Turkey Vultures also destroy anthrax bacteria or hog cholera virus as it passes through their digestive tracts, thus helping to contain these diseases.
Because they eat carrion, their heads have no feathers that might become fouled by a meal.
Turkey Vultures are different from the other raptors. Today it is thought that Turkey Vultures are more closely related to Storks than to the other raptors.
Turkey Vulture identification tips:
Turkey vultures are large blackish brown birds. The flight feathers are a silvery gray. Turkey vultures have nearly featherless heads. The adult turkey vulture has a red head while the juvenile has a black head.
Turkey vultures rock while in flight.
Turkey vultures can be found in most of the United States and Mexico during summer.
- Length: 26 inches
- Wingspan: 67 inches
- Weight: 4 lb
- Nest: Stump, cliff or shallow cave
- Usually lay 2 eggs (can be 1-3)
- Incubation: Both parents incubate the eggs. Incubation lasts 38 to 41 days
- Fledge: 66 to 88 days