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Merlin Bird ID

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    Turkey Vulture

    Silhouette VulturesVultures

    Turkey Vulture

    Cathartes aura
    • ORDER: Cathartiformes
    • FAMILY: Cathartidae
    Basic Description

    If you’ve gone looking for raptors on a clear day, your heart has probably leaped at the sight of a large, soaring bird in the distance– perhaps an eagle or osprey. But if it's soaring with its wings raised in a V and making wobbly circles, it's likely a Turkey Vulture. These birds ride thermals in the sky and use their keen sense of smell to find fresh carcasses. They are a consummate scavenger, cleaning up the countryside one bite of their sharply hooked bill at a time, and never mussing a feather on their bald heads.

    More ID Info
    image of range map for Turkey VultureRange map provided by Birds of North AmericaExplore Maps

    Find This Bird

    The most common time to see a Turkey Vulture is while driving, so look along the sides of highways and in the sky over open countryside. When hiking or traveling in hilly or mountainous areas, keep your eyes peeled for vultures. Sudden changes in topography allow for updrafts that the birds use to carry them into the sky.

    Other Names
    • Zopilote Aura (Spanish)
    • Urubu à tête rouge (French)

    Backyard Tips

    Turkey Vultures are accustomed to living near humans and snacking off of our leavings. You will often see them in farm fields or hanging out next to the road. However, they are not likely to be in your backyard unless something has died or else you have a very large backyard.

    • Cool Facts