Turkey vultures are one of the few birds with a highly developed sense of smell, which they use to seek out rotting animal carcasses. They’re also among the most talented soarers in the animal kingdom, able to stay aloft for hours without a single wingbeat. This is only possible in the presence of warm thermal updrafts, so northerly populations will usually migrate south during winter. In our region, turkey vultures are often the first sign spring weather is here, as they rely on the thermal updrafts that warmer weather brings to search for food. Turkey vultures are incredibly adapted birds to their lifestyle, sporting featherless heads to stay clean while sticking their heads into carcasses to feed, and sunning themselves frequently to bake bacteria from their feathers. Vultures perform a very necessary service in our world because rotting carcasses harbor bacteria and spread disease; carrion eaters help keep the ecosystem healthy by cleaning up.
Description: Large-bodied and long-winged, mostly dark with some lighter/golden brown on feathers, pale undersides on the flight feathers (along the trailing edge and wingtips); red, unfeathered head; white, hooked bill
- Soar with very few wingbeats
- Soar in small groups, roost in larger groups
- Ride thermals to soar to great heights
- Sunning: spreading feathers out in sunlight to kill bacteria on feathers
- Projectile vomit as a deterrent to predators
- Defecate on own legs to cool selves