Turkey Vulture

It is Turkey Vulture. They are large birds. Read this blog to learn more about them.

Introduction

  • They are large, dark birds with long, broad wings.
  • They have long tails that cross over their toe tips while flying and long “fingers” at the tips of their wings.
  • Except for eagles and condors, they are larger than the majority of raptors.
  • It flies with its wings slightly raised, giving them the appearance of a “V” form from above.

Scientific Name 

Cathartes aura

History

  • Buzzard is a pejorative term frequently used to describe this creature.
  • Early European settlers in the US assumed the enormous birds they saw flying were hawks and dubbed them “buzzards,” which is what Europeans called hawks.
  • Due to the persistence of this erroneous term, some people still call vultures “buzzards.”

Physical Description 

Size & Weight 

  • The height of this creature is 2 1/2 feet.
  • Even though they are huge, they only weigh 2-4 pounds.

Color

  • From a distance, they have a black appearance, but up close, they are dark brown with a red, featherless head and a light bill.
  • The undersides of the flight feathers (around the trailing edge and wingtips) are whiter, giving them a two-toned look while the majority of their body and forewing is dark.

Wingspan

wingspan of 6 feet. 

Behavior

Feeding Behavior

  • It searches for carrion by flying over open or partially wooded terrain, keeping an eye on the ground, and observing other scavengers in action.
  • Some carrion can also be located by smell: has a keen sense of smell, unlike other birds.

Flying Behavior

  • Turkey Vulture has to work very hard to fly, pushing off the ground with its feet and flapping its wings at the same time.
  • It typically tips its wings from side to side when soaring, giving the gray flight feathers a silvery appearance as they catch the light.
Turkey Vulture Flying
Turkey Vulture Flying
  • It also holds its wings in a shallow V-shape. 

Nocturnal Behavior

  • The sociable vulture forages alone during the day but gathers in big numbers at night to roost. 

Mating Behavior

  • Its breeding season begins in March, peaks in April to May, and lasts until June.
  • Several individuals congregate in a circle for the courtship rituals, performing hopping maneuvers around the circumference of the circle with wings wide. 

Habitat & Range

  • It is one of three species that make up the genus Cathartes in the Cathartidae family.
  • Its range extends from southern Canada to the southernmost point of South America.
  • It can be found in a wide range of open and partially open environments, including subtropical woods, shrublands, pastures, and deserts. 

Food & Diet

  • They eat mostly dead animals and human waste.
  • Although Turkey Vultures occasionally eat live prey, such as young or unwell birds and mammals, Black Vultures kill live prey more frequently, and reports of Turkey Vultures eating live prey frequently involve Black Vultures that were misidentified.

Lifespan

  • In the wild, the typical lifespan is 16 years, whereas it can reach 30 years in captivity.

Nest

  • Instead of creating nests, they lay their eggs in hidden spaces such as cracks in ledges, caverns, and hollow logs as well as on the ground.
  • In addition to abandoned structures, mammal burrows, abandoned stick nests, and bird nests, turkey vultures also breed there.

Reproduction

  • To attract mates, they assemble on the ground and start hopping in a circle while spreading their wings slightly.
  • Males and females frequently remain together all year long and frequently have long-term relationships.

Egg

  • In hollow logs, under fallen trees, abandoned structures, caves, mammal burrows, or crevices, the female Turkey Vulture lays one to three eggs directly on the ground.
  • Creamy-white eggs with dark streaks around the big end.

Prey

  • They mostly feed on carrion and human garbage.
  • Sometimes, they prey on sick birds and small mammals.  

Predator

  • Mammal nest predators like raccoons prey on turkey vulture chicks and eggs.
  • Owls can prey on both children and adults. 

Turkey Vulture Flying

  • To more effectively locate food, they can soar 200 feet above the ground or at treetop level.
  • If they are soaring, it indicates that they are either passing time while they wait for a Turkey Vulture to find food, searching by sight, or waiting for a larger, potentially deadly, predator or scavenger on the ground to finish eating.

Black Vulture vs Turkey Vulture

  • Black vultures are compact birds with broad wings, short tails, and forceful wingbeats, while Turkey Vultures are lanky birds with unsteady flying.
  • To compensate for its poor sense of smell, the Black Vulture typically follows Turkey Vultures to corpses.

Population

  • The estimated geographical distribution of this creature is 28,000,000 km2.
  • Estimates place its population at 4,500,000 people worldwide.

Conservation & Threat

  • Although DDT’s adverse effects once put these birds in danger, they are now among the most prevalent large carnivorous birds in North America.
  • However, similar to California condors, they are susceptible to toxins or lead in dead animals since they feed on rotting meat.

Fun Facts

  • Unexpectedly large is Turkey Vulture. They can fly for hours without getting tired and have a 6-foot wingspan.
  • They congregate in a flock each year to feed on dead animals. The birds refer to this occurrence as a “wake.” One of the few species that will clean up and consume the carrion from the carcasses of other species is the turkey vulture.
  • Since they lack teeth, they eat by tearing through flesh and bone with their formidable beaks.

Reference Link

Turkey Vulture-FAQ 

What does a Turkey Vulture look like?

From a distance, turkey vultures have a black appearance, but up close, they are dark brown with a red, featherless head and a light bill. The undersides of the flight feathers (around the trailing edge and wingtips) are whiter, giving them a two-toned look while the majority of their body and forewing are dark.

How much does a Turkey Vulture Weigh?

A typical turkey vulture is 2 1/2 feet tall and has a 6-foot wingspan. They are quite huge, but only weigh approximately 3 pounds.

What does Turkey Vulture poop look like?

The feces from turkey vultures are frequently a liquid of a white tint, similar to bird droppings from other species. According to the Turkey Vulture Society, they normally release it after treading on an animal carcass because the digestive fluids in the vulture’s feces will eliminate any microorganisms present.

Will Turkey Vulture hurt you?

Turkey vultures rarely commit murder. Occasionally, reports of the sepcies killing live prey—such as young rats, grouse chicks, and small fish—are made, although these incidents are uncommon. Your pets, kids, or infants won’t be at risk from these calm animals.

What does a Turkey Vulture eat?

Generally, they eat carrion and human garbage.