Turkey vultures are interesting-looking birds. Once you see one, you aren’t likely to forget what they look like. For starters, they are big — larger than a hawk and almost as big as a bald eagle. They are mostly dark brown or almost black in color, but what will get your attention is their bright red heads. Their red, featherless heads are where the turkey part of their name comes from. They are called vultures because of their unique diet.
Turkey vultures and other vultures specialize in eating dead animals, called carrion. Unlike other birds, turkey vultures have a good sense of smell, which they use to find food. Eating dead animals like roadkill might seem gross to us, but they actually perform a very important role in the ecosystem. Very few animals will eat carrion, and without them, these animal carcasses would begin to pile up. This wouldn’t smell very good, and it would also allow some diseases to spread more easily.