Turkey Vulture

Turkey Vulture


Southern Canada, all of U.S. and Mexico.


Open country, farmland, forests.


The turkey vulture acquired its name from its appearance. The red skin on its head and dark body feathers give it a resemblance to a turkey. They are black with narrow wings and tail. The underside of flight feathers are silvery, the head is naked, small and red. It has a conspicuous short neck and yellow feet. The featherless head is characteristic of most carrion (decomposing matter) feeding birds. When vultures eat, the immerse their heads in the carcass. The decaying matter will not get stuck on their naked heads, which they would otherwise not be able to clean themselves. This also prevents bacteria growth as well as disease.

Turkey Vulture

It soars with wings held slightly above horizontal, flaps infrequently. It seldom kill its own prey, feeding mostly on carrion. Grunts and hisses when disturbed. When threatened, they will vomit.


Both the male and female turkey vultures incubate their eggs. They lay the eggs on the floor of caves, or in dense bush on the ground. If grabbed by humans while sitting on the nest the adult will feign death or regurgitate foul smelling food. One to three eggs, white with reddish-brown spots, are laid. Incubation is 39 to 40 days. The young leave the nest at eleven weeks.

Interesting Facts:

Often incorrectly called "buzzards."

Turkey Vulture
Native Utah Animal
Class: birds
Genus: Cathartes
Species: aura aura
Length: 26-32 inches; wingspan: 6 ft.
Average Lifespan: 15-20 years
Wild Diet: Carrion (decomposing matter); some small mammals and birds.
USFWS Status: Not Listed
CITES Status: Not Listed
Where at the Zoo? South Pathway

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