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Turkey Vulture
Similar Birds:
 Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture
 Greater Yellow-headed Vulture






Turkey Vulture
Photographer: Don DeBold


A Turkey Vulture in Flight
A Turkey Vulture in Flight


Turkey Vulture Range Map (North & South America)
Yellow: Summer range. Green: Year round
Turkey Vulture Range Map (North & South America)
Created by: Minzinho

Latin Name Cathartes aura
Conservation Status Least Concern
Location S Canada to S America
Colour Brownish-black
Length 64 - 81 cms (25 - 32 inches)
Wingspan 1.6 - 1.8 m (5.2 - 5.9 ft)
Weight 0.85 - 2 Kgs (1.75 - 4.5 lbs)
Life Expectancy 12 - 17 Yrs

Main Characteristics


The Turkey Vulture is the most widespread of the New World vultures. They have a body length between 64 and 81 cms (25 - 32 inches), a wingspan between 1.6 and 1.8 m (5.2 - 5.9 ft) and they weigh between 0.85 and 2 kgs (1.75 - 4.5 lbs).

They are brownish-black in colour with silver-grey flight feathers. They have long, broad wings, strong, bare legs and a bald head and neck.

Turkey Vultures and their close relatives are the only birds of prey with a good sense of smell, which enables them to find food even in thick jungle.

Habitat

Turkey Vultures can be found in a diverse range of habitats in North and South America.

Diet

Turkey Vultures mainly feed on carrion. They prefer carrion that is recently dead and avoid carcasses that have reached the point of putrefaction.

Breeding

The breeding season of Turkey Vultures varies depending on latitude, but in North America it takes place from March to June. Nest sites are found in sheltered areas such as hollow logs or trees, in old buildings or crevices in cliffs. Little or no nest is actually built and females lay 1 - 3 eggs on debris or the flat bottom of the nest site.

Incubation lasts for 30 - 40 days and both adults care for the chicks. The youngsters fledge at 70 - 80 days old and they reach independence approximately one week later.

Predators

Turkey Vultures have few natural predators. They may fall prey to golden eagles, bald eagles and great horned owls, while eggs and nestling may be preyed upon by mammals such as raccoons, opossums and foxes.

Subspecies

There are four subspecies of the Turkey Vulture:

Cathartes aura aura
This is the nominate subspecies. It is found from Mexico south through South America and the Greater Antilles.

Chilean Turkey Vulture
(Cathartes aura jota)
It is found in Chile.

Cathartes aura ruficollis
It is found in Panama south through Uruguay and Argentina. It can also be found on the island of Trinidad.

Eastern Turkey Vulture
(Cathartes aura septentrionalis)
It ranges from southeastern Canada south through the eastern United States

Interesting Facts

Turkey Vultures are also known as:
Turkey Buzzard (in North America)
Buzzard (in North America)
John Crow (in the Caribbean)
Carrion Crow (in the Caribbean)
 


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