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Turkey Vulture Cathartes aura


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Turkey Vulture
credit: Snowmanradio/CCSA

© Lang Elliot/ (audio)

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Family: Cathartidae, American Vultures view all from this family

Description ADULT Appears mainly blackish in harsh light, but brownish plumage tone is revealed at close range. Bald head is reddish and bill is pale. In flight, seen from below, silvery gray flight feathers contrast with otherwise dark plumage; note the proportionately long tail. JUVENILE Similar to adult, but with browner plumage and dark head and bill.

Dimensions Length: 25-32" (64-81 cm); Wngspn: 6' (1.8 m)

Habitat Fairly common summer visitor throughout U.S. and into southern Canada. Range contracts south in fall, many birds migrating to Central America. Found mainly in open and lightly wooded country.

Observation Tips Easiest to see on sunny mornings before too many thermals have been generated.

Range Florida, Mid-Atlantic, Western Canada, Plains, Texas, Southeast, Rocky Mountains, Northwest, New England, California, Great Lakes, Southwest, Eastern Canada

Voice Mostly silent.

Discussion The larger and more widespread of our two vulture species. Soars and glides with consummate ease with wings held in a shallow "V"; active flight is labored. Confusingly, referred to as a "Buzzard" by many nonbirders. Bald head helps reduce feather contamination when feeding on carrion; this is located by both sight and smell. Often perches with wings spread. Sexes are similar.