Turkey Vulture
Cathartes aura

ORDER: Falconiformes
FAMILY: Cathartidae

Adult 2 - 4 lbs.; 25 - 32 inches

North and South America

Mainly deciduous forests and woodlands; often seen over adjacent farmlands

Wild - Carrion and other refuse; frequently feeds on nestlings and eggs; causes havoc among breeding colonies of sea birds
Zoo - Bird of prey diet


  • Black plumage flecked with brown gives off glittering reflection
  • Feet and upper part of neck and head are purplish-red
  • Beak is whitish
  • Resembles a domestic turkey in general appearance and especially when at rest
  • Narrower wings than those of black vulture; silvery linings


  • The turkey vulture's rear toe is fairly short and high positioned making it better adapted for ground movement
  • Solitary by day
  • While they sleep, their internal temperature may drop by about 4 - 5 degrees
  • Graceful glider; hunts in the morning and early afternoon
  • Finds food by sense of smell
  • When seeking food, it flies low over the ground. It can detect olfactory stimuli which cannot be perceived at higher altitudes.
  • Most commonly and most widely distributed New World vulture. Successfully settled in the most diverse habitats. Wanders south during the winter months to warmer regions of America.

Lays 2 dirty brown eggs. Chicks born with eyes open and alert. Fully grown in 3 months.

Not threatened; widespread; protected in U.S.