Home » Birds » Turkey Vulture

Turkey Vulture

Scientific name: Cathartes aura

This is the most common of the large soaring birds that you are likely to see. Appearing solid black (from a distance) with a naked red head, this bird takes on a V shape while flying. Its flight wings, seen when open, are a light grey, sometimes tilting side to side. With a wind span of up to six feet, this is an enormous bird!
Like other high flying birds, they take advantage of the thermal drafts that nature provides, so that little effort is spent on flight. They glide and soar, rarely using their wings for propulsion.


2-5 pounds


27 inches

click to flip


They eat animals which have died (called carrion) either because they have been hit by cars, or from other causes.
Most predators spot prey by their movement. Since turkey vultures eat carrion or garbage, they have a highly developed sense of smell that helps them locate food.


They particularly enjoy rocky hilltops, and bluffs. But they will be seen anywhere that they locate food.

Life Cycle

Most interesting is that this is a bird that does not build a traditional nest. They seek a private spot far away from humans. It could be the hollow of a log, a crevice in a rock, or even a spot dug out of the soil. One or two eggs are laid. The family will stay together until the fall.


The turkey vultures that live in the north do migrate by December.

Human Connections

Turkey vultures are part of nature’s clean up crew, dining on road kill and human’s garbage.

Family Structure

They tend to hunt alone, but they do roost together in trees.

Fun Facts

From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vulture, “A group of vultures is called a kettle, committee or wake. The term kettle refers to vultures in flight, while committee refers to vultures resting on the ground or in trees. Wake is reserved for a group of vultures that are feeding.”


The turkey vulture lacks vocal chords, so it cannot sing, but it does make a hissing or whining sound.

Family Structure

They tend to hunt alone, but they do roost together in trees.

More on Birds in Lewisboro