Turkey Vulture

Turkey Vulture

Turkey Vulture
(Cathartes aura)

Order:  Cathartiformes
Family:  Cathartidae

Photo © Don DesJardin

Turkey Vulture Information

Length:  25 - 32"

In the Northeast, the Turkey Vulture is found in deciduous and mixed forests, as well as rocky mountainous areas. This raptor prefers habitat adjacent to open country such as farmlands.

The Turkey Vulture feeds predominately on the carrion of both small and large mammals, but also eats the carrion of some birds, reptiles, amphibians, and fish. It very rarely kills prey itself. This bird also will eat small amounts of vegetable matter.

  Sounds of the Turkey Vulture

Additional photos and information

Turkey Vulture
Habitat, diet, feeding behavior, nesting, migration, and conservation status of this bird. Includes range map, photos, and songs and calls. (From Audubon Field Guide)

Photo of Turkey Vulture in flight
From Mike Danzenbaker's Bird Photography

Turkey Vulture
Identification Tips

  • Wingspan: 72 inches
  • Sexes similar
  • Very large, broad-winged, soaring bird
  • Long and rounded tail
  • Longish, hooked bill
  • Rather short, thick legs
  • Holds wings in a dihedral angle while soaring and gliding
  • Spends most time soaring, infrequent flaps are slow and laborious
  • Small, unfeathered head
  • Plumage dark brown except for paler flight feathers, appearing black and gray
  • Red head
  • Yellowish bill
  • Reddish legs

(Credit: U. S. Geological Survey)

Turkey Vulture
Breeding Bird Survey Map,

Turkey Vulture Breeding Map

(Image credit: USGS)

Turkey Vulture
Range Maps from Cornell

Turkey Vulture breeding range and year-round range

Includes separate map of sightings.

Turkey Vulture
Christmas Bird Count Map

Historical CBC Map from USGS