Turkey Vulture

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image: TurkeyVulture.jpg

Common Name: Turkey Vulture
Scientific Name: Cathartes aura

Size: 25-32 inches (64-81 cm); Wingspan: 67-70 inches (170-178 cm)

Habitat: North and South America. Summer Range: Breeds from southern Canada throughout the United States and southward through southern South America and the Caribbean. Local or absent in Great Plains. Winter Range: Winters from northern California, Mexican border, eastern Texas, southern Missouri, and southern New York southward throughout the southeastern United States and south. It prefers rangeland and areas of mixed farmland and forest. It will roost in large trees or on large urban buildings.

Status: Least Concern. Global Population: 5,000,000 mature individuals. Overall North American populations have increased over the last few decades and the breeding range has expanded northward.

Diet: Wide variety of carrion, from small mammals to dead cows. Also, some insects, other invertebrates and some fruit.

Nesting: Sexes appear similar, but female slightly larger. New World vultures and condors do not build nests. Instead, they lay eggs on bare surfaces. Two eggs are laid; Creamy-white with dark blotches around large end. Chicks are naked at hatching and later grow down. The parents feed the young by regurgitation. The young are helpless and fledge in 2 to 3 months.

Cool Facts: 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. The Turkey Vulture rarely flaps its wings.

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. No New World Vulture possesses a syrinx (vocal organ), so they instead make a series of soft hisses and barks. The Turkey Vulture routinely hisses at carrion, roosts and nests.

Found in Songbird ReMix Vultures

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