A Turkey Vulture is a fun bird to see while bird watching. Below are some tips to help you identify Turkey Vultures. We have also put together a list of fun Turkey Vulture t-shirts, Turkey Vulture bird patches, bird houses, bird feeders, binoculars, stickers and other fun bird watching items.
About Turkey Vultures
Also known as the “Turkey buzzard” or “Carrion crow”, this bird is the most widespread of the New World Vultures. It lives in Southern Canada and to the southernmost tips of South America.
Description and Identification
Turkey Vultures are a large, eagle-sized bird with a wingspan that could approach six-feet. The species is dark blackish-brown, and the underside of flight feathers are silver-grey. The adult vultures’ heads are small in proportion to their body and are red in colour with few to no feathers, and it also has a short, hooked, and ivory-coloured beak. The irises of the eyes are grey-brown; legs and feet are pink-skinned, though typically stained white. The juvenile bird has a grey head with a black beak tip, and as the birds mature, the colour changes gradually. In-flight, Vultures’ featherless heads appear relatively small.
Turkey Vulture Size
Both the male and the females are similar in appearance and are the same size.
- Weight: 2.41 kg
- Length:62 to 81 cm
- Wingspan: 160 to 183 cm
Turkey Vulture Color Pattern
Both the males and females have brownish-black feathers, with silvery-grey flight feathers on their wings that are observable from the underside. Adults have a red classic vulture head that is considered small in proportion to its huge body. Their heads have little or no feathers at all.
They have a short, curved, sharp, ivory-colored beak, grey-brown irises, and an incomplete line of eyelashes on the upper eyelid and two rows on the lower lid.
Their feet are pink-skinned and have small webs at the base of the two front talons.
Where Turkey Vultures Live and Their Habitat
Turkey Vultures are the most abundant vultures in America. They are found in open and semi-open areas throughout America, from southern Canada to Cape Horn, especially within a few miles of rocky or wooded areas for nesting. These birds occur in a variety of widespread over open country, woods, deserts, and foothills. The vultures are also found in pastures, grasslands, and wetlands. They are particularly noticeable along with landfills and roadsides. Turkey Vultures usually avoid densely forested regions, and unlike black vultures, they regularly forage over small offshore islands.
As a scavenger, they tend to avoid heavily forested areas and stick to open and semi-open lands between the Americas to Southern Canada and Cape Horn. They are also found in sub-tropical forests, shrub lands, foothills, and deserts.
Range and Migration
Turkey Vultures are also known as Turkey Buzzard in a few North American regions, and in some areas of the Caribbean, vultures are known as John Crow or Carrion Crown. These vultures are found in ranges from southern Canada to the southernmost tip of South America. Turkey Vultures are residents to long-distance migrants, and some of them in the southern United States are year-round residents. In the northeast, birds migrate short distances southward to North Carolina through Louisiana. On the other hand, Western birds migrate much farther, moving through Central America, and in some cases, the vulture may go as far as Colombia, Ecuador, and Venezuela.
What Turkey Vulture Eat and Their Food
Turkey Vultures feed entirely on carrions and human garbage. On rare occasions, Turkey Vultures catch live prey, including young/sick birds and mammals. They prefer freshly dead animals; however, they often have to wait for their meal to soften up. The vultures may rarely feed on plant matter, shoreline vegetation, coconut, pumpkin, other crops, live insects, and other invertebrates. Turkey Vultures have an uncommon ability in the avian world, that is, foraging smell. Their heightened ability to detect odours allows them to search for carrion below the forest canopy. The vultures lack powerful feet to carry their food, and they mostly consume their food where it is found.
The vultures are carnivorous and they feed on the remains of dead animals. They have a keen sense of smell that allows them to smell rotting or decaying flesh and easily locate them.
In North America, Turkey Vultures breed in farmlands, rangelands, forests, and low-elevation mountains. They don’t build their nests; instead, they lay their eggs n dark recesses in ledges, crevices, hollow logs, and ground. The vultures nest in abandoned stick nests of birds, mammal burrows, and abandoned buildings. As a part of pair formation, Turkey Vultures gather in a circle on the ground and perform ritualized hopping movements with wings partly spread. The breeding season varies according to latitude. In the southern United States, it begins in March, peaks in April-May, and continues till June. In northern latitudes, the breeding season starts later and extends into August. Females generally lay two eggs on a bare surface. Both parents incubate, and the egg hatches after 30-40 days. Family groups remain together until fall.
Turkey Vulture Behavior
They are largely social creatures and hence they take comfort in large community groups. Their courtship is usually displayed by a gathering of individuals in a circle, where they perform a “hop-dance” then take off as the courting male closely follows the female during flight.
The nesting sites are usually somewhere safe like hollows of trees, caves or rock civets. After hatching, both adults feed the chicks by regurgitating food for them until they are mature enough to fly off on their own. The vultures have no vocal organs and communicate through grunts and hisses.
Bird Watching Academy & Camp Subscription Boxes
At Bird Watching Academy & Camp we help kids, youth, and adults get excited and involved in bird watching. We have several monthly subscription boxes that you can subscribe to. Our monthly subscription boxes help kids, youth, and adults learn about birds, bird watching, and bird conservation.
Bird Watching Binoculars for Identifying Turkey Vultures
The most common types of bird watching binoculars for viewing Turkey Vultures are 8×21 binoculars and 10×42 binoculars. Bird Watching Academy & Camp sells really nice 8×21 binoculars and 10×42 binoculars. You can view and purchase them here.
Turkey Vulture T-shirts
If you love the Turkey Vulture you should purchase a Bird Watching Academy & Camp T-shirt. To help support bird conservation we donate 10 percent to bird conservation activities.
Turkey Vulture Iron On Patches
Kids, Youth, and Adults love to collect our Bird Watching Academy & Camp iron on patches. Our bird watching patches help you keep track of the birds you have seen an identified. You can also display the patches on our Bird Watching Academy & Camp banners.
The Turkey Vulture is a great iron on patch to start your collection with. The patches are durable and can be sewn on or ironed on to just about anything.
Turkey Vulture Stickers
Stickers are a great way for you to display your love for bird watching and the Turkey Vulture. We sell a monthly subscription sticker pack. The sticker packs have 12 bird stickers. These sticker packs will help your kids learn new birds every month.
Bird Feeders For Turkey Vulture
There are many types of bird feeders. Here are our favorite bird feeders for your backyard. We use all of these bird feeders currently. Kids will have a great time watching birds eat at these bird feeders. Using this collection of bird feeders will provide a wide variety and many types of birds.
Best Bird Houses for Turkey Vulture
There are many types of bird houses. Building a bird house is always fun but can be frustrating. These 4 bird houses have become our favorites. Getting a bird house for kids to watch birds grow is always fun. We spent a little extra money on these bird houses but they have been worth the higher price and look great.