Turkey Vulture

Turkey Vulture from a distance.

Note leading edge of wing is
black while the rest of the
wing looks gray.

TURKEY VULTURE

Turkey Vulture
Cathartes aura

The Turkey Vulture is a year round resident in Texas and is common throughout the United States.  They are carrion-feeders and can be found soaring and roosting in groups. Turkey Vultures can be distinguished from Black Vultures by shape and flight.   Turkey Vultures soar with a dihedral wing shape (imagine a V-shape) and they rock back and forth. Tail is long.   Black Vultures soar with wings almost flat and rarely rock back and forth. They have very stubby tails.

Species information:

Length:           25”
Wingspan:      68”
Weight:          4 lbs

Plumage:  Black on back, tail and wings. Red head and pale legs. From underneath in flight, Wing tips and trailing feathers are gray compared to rest of body.  Babies are white down with black head.

Habitat:  Found mainly in open areas but can be seen anywhere.

Flight: Often soaring, rocking back and forth.  Has dihedral (V-shape) to wings. When roosting, will open its wings to dry them off before taking flight.

Vocalization: Has no ‘vocal chords’. Only hisses.

Food: Carrion of any kind.

Nesting: Found on the ground or in unused buildings. No nests are made, just a flat surface that may be scraped out a little.  They usually lay 2 eggs that are incubated for about 38 days.  Young fledge in about 11 weeks.  If babies are found, leave them alone, they are supposed to be on the ground.  Vultures are extremely susceptible to ‘imprinting’.  If humans attempt to raise them, they will become attached to humans and can’t be released into the wild.  Attempting to raise baby birds is against the law unless given state and federal permits.

Defense:  Vultures will ‘throw up’ their food if they feel threatened.

Note: Turkey Vultures find food by smell.  They can smell carrion over a mile away. Black Vultures will follow them because they do not have a good sense of smell.

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