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The Unusual Habits of Turkey Vultures

Have you spotted a big bird sitting on your roof or a telephone pole or flying overhead? Do you know what kind of bird it is?

Photo via Shutterstock

A hawk would be a good guess, but it could also be a turkey vulture. Both are raptors, or birds of prey, which are birds that eat other animals.

Learn more about turkey vultures below to help you learn how to identify one in the wild.

Fun Facts

  • Turkey vultures live all over the United States. In our area, we mainly see them in the summer. That’s because the turkey vultures that live here migrate south for the winter.

  • It might sound gross, but turkey vultures eat dead animals. It’s their preferred food. They sometimes eat live prey, but only very rarely.

  • Turkey vultures are big by bird standards, but they only weigh between 2 pounds and 4 pounds. Their wingspan is about 6 feet, and they stand about 2 ½ feet tall.

  • At a distance, turkey vultures look black, but their feathers are actually dark brown. They have bald red heads, resembling a wild turkey.

  • You can tell a turkey vulture from other birds of prey by how they fly. A turkey vulture holds its wings in a V position instead of straight out from their body. They also aren’t very graceful in flight and look wobbly compared to hawks and other raptors.

  • In the United States, turkey vultures are also sometimes referred to as buzzards. In other parts of the world, turkey vultures and buzzards are different animals.

  • Most birds don’t have a very good sense of smell, but turkey vultures do. They use it to help them find food.

  • Turkey vultures have an unusual way to protect themselves from potential predators and other threats: They vomit. They can heave it pretty far — up to 10 feet away.


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