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Turkey Vulture

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Turkey Vulture Fast Facts

  • Location: Throughout the America's from southern Canada to the most southern tip of South America.
  • Habitat: Open and semi-open areas including sub tropical forests, shrublands, pastures and deserts.
  • Lifespan: Over 45 years
  • Diet: Carrion
  • Length: 60 - 80cm
  • Weight: 1 - 2.3kg
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Overview

The Turkey Vulture is a New World Vulture from the condor family and is one of the most geographically widespread. It can be found in a variety of open and semi-open areas including sub tropical forests, shrublands, pastures and deserts. The turkey vulture is a scavenger, feeding mostly on carrion. It has very good eyesight and sense of smell. They will fly low to the groud detecting the gases from decaying animals. Vultures are often referred to as the clean up crew, becasue they eat the dead. This helps to keep the ecosystem clean and avoid outbreaks of disease.

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Diet

They mainly feed on carrion of recently deceased animals, carefully avoiding any carcasses that may have been dead for a while. They are also known to feed on pumpkin, coconuts and small invertebrates. They rarely make a kill themselves, and if they do it tends to young or frail prey. They use their sense of smell tofind their food, a skill that is not common in the bird world.

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Reproduction

Turkey vulture's have a courtship ritual that they follow when it comes to breeding. You will see several individuals form a circle where they hop and bop around with their wings partially open. Eggs are laid in a suitable and safe nesting site which could be a cliff, cave, rock crevice, burrow or a hole inside a tree. The female will lay usually 2 eggs, with both parents taking it in turns to incubate the eggs for up to 40 days. Both adults will feed to chicks with regurgitated food, caring for them for up to 11 weeks when the chicks start to fledge the nest and fend for themselves.

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Threats + Conservation

Turkey vulture's are considered a least concern species which means they are not currently threatened with extinction. However they do face perscution from humans as they are thought to carry dangerous viruses including anthrax and hog cholera.

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Fun facts

Turkey vultures are known to defecate on its own legs! This helps to cool the vulture down in a process known as urohidrosis. Turkey vulture's are often the first vulture species to find a carcass, due to their unusual ability to smell out suitable prey. Fledgling's will stay with their family group until the Autumn before venturing off on their own.

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Turkey Vulture Gallery

Cathartes aura

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