Turkey Vulture

Cathartes aura

Order

CICONIIFORMES

Family

New World Vultures (Cathartidae)

Code 4

TUVU

Code 6

CATAUA

ITIS

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ILLUSTRATION

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PHOTOS

CONSERVATION STATUS

Least Concern

The Turkey Vulture has a large range, estimated globally at 28,000,000 square kilometers. Native to the Americas and nearby island nations, this bird prefers subtropical or tropical shrubland, grassland, or forest ecosystems as well as deserts, pastureland, and degraded former forests. The global population of this bird is estimated at 4,500,000 individuals and does not show signs of decline that would necessitate inclusion on the IUCN Red List. For this reason, the current evaluation status of the Turkey Vulture is Least Concern.

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BIRD PHOTOGRAPHY

SUMMARY

Overview

Turkey Vulture: Medium vulture, mostly black with red, featherless head and upper neck. Wings are held in a shallow V in flight. One of the few birds of prey that is able to use its sense of smell to find food. They are attracted to the smell of mercaptan, a gas produced by the beginnings of decay.


Range and Habitat

Turkey Vulture: Breeds from southern British Columbia, central Saskatchewan, the Great Lakes, and Maine southward. Spends winters in the Southwest and eastern U.S. northward to southern New England. Ranges have expanded northward. Preferred habitats include deciduous forests, woodlands, and scrublands; often seen over adjacent farmlands.

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SONGS AND CALLS

Voice Text

Generally silent

INTERESTING FACTS

  • Turkey Vultures, like other carrion birds, are protected from disease associated with decaying animals by a very sophisticated immune system.
  • Like its stork relatives, it often defecate on its own legs, using the evaporation of the water in the feces to cool itself.
  • Unlike most birds, they have a keen sense of smell allowing it to find dead animals below a forest canopy.
  • A group of vultures has many collective nouns, including a "cast", "committee", "meal", "vortex", and "wake" of vultures.

SIMILAR BIRDS

RANGE MAP

CERange Map for Turkey Vulture

FAMILY DESCRIPTION

TERMINOLOGY

CREDITS

Author

Gary Owen Dick

Artist

Yury Lisyak

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