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Turkey Vulture

Turkey Vulture

Turkey Vulture 

Turkey Vulture


The turkey vulture, Cathartes aura, is a large eagle-sized bird of the Cathartidae family (Audubon, 1994). Adult turkey vultures range in size from 25 to 34 inches long, with a wingspan of about 6 feet. They are black with small, naked, red heads. While fling, long tails and pale silver flight feathers can be seen. This species of vulture sores with its wings held at an angle of 20o above the horizon forming a V. The flight pattern is one of the most graceful of all birds (Audubon, 1998).


The turkey vulture is found from British Columbia to the southwestern United States. In the winter, they may migrate to Central and South America, but will return north with the Vernal Equinox (spring equinox) ( They are frequently seen inhabiting deciduous forests and woodlands. They are often seen soaring over farmland (Audubon, 1994). This bird is very social as many as 40 vultures may share a night roost.

Breeding and Life Cycle

Two whitish eggs with brown markings are place in a rock crevice, hollow tree on in a hollow log. There is no nest built (

Turkey vultures can raise only one brood a year. Both parents share the responsibilities of incubating and caring for the chicks. The incubation period is for 38 to 41 day. The young vultures fledge in 70 to 80 days. The sexes appear identical, but immature turkey vultures have black heads and may be mistaken for black vultures ( While in the falcon order, they lack the strong feet to take live pray. Adult turkey vultures subsist on carrion, which is much easer for their weak feet to handle ( The turkey vulture may use projectile vomit to protect itself, or it may roll over and play dead (


National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Birds, 1994: National Audubon Society, New York

National Audubon Society Field Guide to the Pacific Northwest, 1998: National Audubon Society, New York

Author: Jo Reynolds

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