Turkey Vulture

Creature Features

Description                                                                                                                                                                                         Turkey Vultures are large dark birds with long, broad wings. Bigger than other raptors except eagles and condors, they have long “fingers” at their wingtips and long tails that extend past their toe tips in flight. When soaring, they hold their wings slightly raised, making a “V” when seen head-on.

Diet                                                                                                                                                                                                       Mostly carrion. Feed mainly on dead animals, preferring those recently dead. Occasionally feeds on decaying vegetable matter, live insects, or live fish in drying-up ponds.

Nesting                                                                                                                                                                                                      As a part of pair formation, several birds gather in a circle on the ground, and perform ritualized hopping movements around the perimeter of the circle with wings partly spread. In the air, one bird may closely follow another, the two birds flapping and diving. Nest sites are in sheltered areas, such as inside hollow trees or logs, in crevices in cliffs, under rocks, in caves, inside dense thickets, or in old buildings.

Fun Facts

  • Other Names: Turkey buzzard, buzzard, john crow, carrion crow
  • Scientific Name: Cathartes aura
  •  Conservation Status: Least concern
  • Lifespan: up to 20 years in the wild
  • Body Length: 25 to 31 inches
  • Wingspan: 66 to 70 inches
  • Weight: 70.5 ounces
  •  Incubation: 34 to 41 days, by both parents
  • Number of Young: 2, sometimes 1, rarely 3.
  • Habitat: Open areas such as roadsides, suburbs, farm fields, countryside, etc...
  • Distribution: Present year-round in much of southern United States, but northern birds migrate long distances, some reaching South America

Did You Know?

Groups of vultures spiraling upward to gain altitude are called “kettles.” As vultures catch thermal updrafts they take on the appearance of water boiling in a pot–hence the name kettle.