Turkey Vultures are in the
family Cathartidae which groups them together with other
vultures. Turkey Vultures are the most common vulture in
the New World. They are about 27 inches (69cm) in size with a
wingspan of about 69 inches (175cm). They are a very large
soaring bird that is dark brownish-black in color. The
trailing edges of their wings is silvery-white. Turkey
Vultures have a smell red unfeathered head and a long
hooked bill. The unfeathered head serves a purpose to
protect them from disease as they are feeding on
carrion. They are mostly seen soaring, but when they do
flap it is slow and labored.
Photo: Ivan Andrijevic
Turkey Vultures are found
year-round in most of the southern United States, along
the eastern seaboard and in Mexico and Central America.
They breed in most of the western and northeastern parts
of the United States, even making it into small parts of
Canada. They occupy Western New York during the breeding
Turkey Vultures are most
common in dry, open, farmland and mixed forest areas and
are usually alone. They are commonly seen along the
sides of high ways as they are able to see their prey
easiest. Turkey Vultures prey on wild and domestic
carrion. Mammals are the most common choice, but they
will feast on chicken, alligators, snakes and turtles.
Photo: M. Noonan
Turkey Vultures have a
monogamous mating system and lay one brood per year.
They don't use a nest, but instead will use a cave,
cliff side or a
hollow stump. Both sexes will incubate the 2 white eggs
that the female has laid. Incubation takes about 38-41
days and the young are semialtricial when hatched. This
means they are immobile, downy, able to see and need to
be fed. Again, both sexes will tend young until the
young are able to fly which is about 66-88 days after
they are hatched.
Photo: Skyler Dobert
Vulture is most numerous here from March through November, but occurs all
year-round. A roost site of these majestic birds is located at Ringneck
Marsh along Sour Springs Road at
Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge.