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Although it has an ugly, bare-skinned face, the Turkey Vulture is beautiful on the wing. Seldom does this graceful and talented bird flap its wings as it soars over large areas searching for carrion.
Large soaring bird.
Long wings and tail.
Body feathers entirely blackish-brown.
Red head mostly unfeathered.
Size: 64-81 cm (25-32 in)
Wingspan: 170-178 cm (67-70 in)
Weight: 2000 g (70.6 ounces)
Sexes appear similar, but female slightly larger.
Usually silent. Makes hiss at carcasses, roosts, and nest.
»listen to songs of this species
Overall North American populations have increased over the last few decades and the breeding range has expanded northward.
Urubu à tête rouge, Vautour (French)
Zopilote Aura, Aura cabecirroja (Spanish)
The Turkey Vulture uses its sense of smell to locate carrion. The part of its brain responsible for processing smells is particularly large, compared to other birds. Its heightened ability to detect odors allows it to find dead animals below a forest canopy.
The Turkey Vulture maintains stability and lift at low altitudes by holding its wings up in a slight dihedral (V-shape) and teetering from side to side while flying. It flies low to the ground to pick up the scent of dead animals.
Like its stork relatives, the Turkey Vulture often defecates on its own legs, using the evaporation of the water in the feces to cool itself down.
The Turkey Vulture usually forages alone, unlike its smaller, more social relative, the Black Vulture. Although one Turkey Vulture can dominate a single Black Vulture at a carcass, usually such a large number of Black Vultures appear that they can overwhelm a solitary Turkey Vulture and take most of the food
Also by Lucy Jackalone
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