The Turkey vulture (Cathartes aura) is found from southern Canada to the southernmost tip of South America. Also commonly known as the Turkey Buzzard, this scavenger has a bald purplish-red head, short ivory-covered beak and dark brown plumage. The species got its name because of its resemblance to the common wild turkey, although scientists have discovered through DNA testing that the species belongs in the stork family.
Turkey vultures feed on a wide variety of fresh carrion, locating food by sight and a highly acute sense of smell. They rip apart their food with a short, hooked beak. When meat is scarce, they occasionally sample pumpkins, grass, leaves and a variety of seeds.
Like the eagle, turkey vultures conserve energy by soaring for long hours on thermals of warm air using their six foot wingspread to conserve energy.
They are very social birds, often flying or perching in trees in large groups, although they typically hunt alone.
Photograph courtesy of John White
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