ANIMAL:Turkey Vulture Cathartes aura
Type of Animal:
New World Vulture
Open/semi-open country, woodlands, deserts, foothills, agricultural areas, farmland, rangeland, mountains, forests, roadsides, landfills/garbage dumps, shrubland, pastures, grasslands, wetlands, swamps, prairies, urban/suburban areas, tundra, dunes, savanna, riparian areas, chaparral, scrub forest, estuarine areas, steppe, basically all habitats in range
Ranges from S Canada all the way to southern tip of South America. Also found in Caribbean.
Black w/ whitish to silver-gray underwings/wingtips, dark pink to red bald head, white beak, light pink legs, juveniles have pinkish-black heads
Carrion, refuse, insects, fish, decaying vegetable matter, fruit, seabirds
Status in Wild:
Flocks can range from 6-10,000 birds. Often breed in colonies of many monogamous pairs.
5 weeksLife Span:
16 years in wild, 25-30 years in captivity
Main predators of adults are large owls, eagles, red-tailed hawks, foxes, crocodilians, & large snakes. Raccoons, skunks, opossums, & most snakes eat young.
Bald head comes in handy for scavenging & making sure dead meat doesn’t adhere to skin as it would to feathers.
Wingspan of up to 6 ft.
Get name since heads resemble turkeys.
Feed by thrusting heads into body cavities of dead animals.
Scientific name means “cleansing breeze.”
Often called “turkey buzzards” or “buzzards” even though true buzzards are in family Accipitridae (hawks, eagles, old world vultures, etc.) not Cathartidae (New World Vultures).
More related to storks than true raptors.
Can soar for hours w/o flapping wings, taking advantage of thermal updrafts.
As scavengers, they play important role in reducing spread of disease.
Since they lack voice box, they don’t sing/call. Communicate through grunts/hisses.
Highly acidic stomachs can kill bacteria/germs that can make people very sick-such as those that cause anthrax, botulism, salmonella, & cholera.
One of largest olfactory systems of any bird being able to smell carrion from over a mile away.
If disturbed/harassed, they’ll vomit.
During hot months, they’ll poop/pee on their feet to cool off. Will also pee on legs to keep clean since acidic urine washes off bacteria.