Some more vulture facts are:
- Turkey vultures have wing spans up to 6 feet, weights of 3 to 4
pounds. Males and females are similar in size and weight.
- As scavengers, vultures consume huge quantities of carrion from
roads, fields and forests. Vultures play an major role in nature's
- Turkey vultures rarely flap their wings; they hold their wings in
a "V" and use the updrafts, thermals, to soar for hours. They usually
rock from side to side as they fly at speeds from 15 to 34 miles per
- Vultures are essentially voiceless as they lack a voice box. They
are able to make snorting and hissing sounds by blowing air through
their noses. They also stomp their feet when warning others to stay
- Seen from below, the turkey vulture is a charcoal bird, with silver
primary feathers along the trailing edges of its wings.
- Young turkey vultures have black featherless necks and heads (bald).
Adult turkey vultures have red featherless necks and heads. Without
feathers, their heads appear very small from a distance .
- Turkey vultures are very social birds; they roost together at night
(up to 70 birds in a tree) and will search for food together in groups
- Turkey vultures sun themselves by spreading their wings for several
minutes before they fly. The sunning provides the turkey vulture with
vitamin D and also helps them to increase their body temperature before
they try to fly. They usually are late risers, waiting for the sun
to warm them and to create thermals so they can circle and fly directly
to the food source located the previous day.
- Their only natural defense is to project their vomit or poop. They
can do this up to six feet away.
- Turkey vultures are able to eat carrion and contaminated meat due
to specialized enzymes and bacteria in their digestive systems. These
sky hunters are sometimes called "the flying detox plants."
- Turkey vultures flapping their wings and their rapid movements on
a carcass was once thought to be fighting over a carcass, but today
it is believed to be a cooperative effort to tear open the tough hides
by pulling and tugging in opposite directions.
- Turkey vultures of New York state are migratory in that they migrate
south each fall before the winter's snow cover halts the thermals
needed for their flight. The following spring they return to nests
on cliffs, in logs or stumps or among rocks on the ground. Young hatch
with their eyes open and covered with down.
- Turkey vultures' young are dependent on their parents for as long
as six months. Adult vultures lay one egg every other year.
- In the early 1900s, the turkey vulture bred only as far north as
New Jersey. The development of the interstate highway system, which
produced a huge number of road-killed animals, attracted the vulture
scavengers north into the New England states.
- There may be a symbiotic relationship between turkey vultures and
coyotes. Turkey vultures fly many miles and find animal carcasses
with their excellent eyes and sense of smell but are not able tear
open the tough skin. Coyotes see the turkey vultures circling their
find and tear open up the carcass as they feed on it. After the coyotes
are full the turkey vultures are able to feed.
- New world vultures (North and South American vultures) include the
turkey vulture, black vulture, California condor, king vulture and
- The new world vultures are related to the storks, herons and ibis.
The great blue heron is a cousin to the turkey vulture. Stork/Heron
characteristics include: nostrils are perforated, no voice box, naked
face, urinating on legs to cool, and full-spread wings in sunning.
- New world vultures are not related to the old world vultures (Asian,
African or European vultures) or birds of prey such as the hawks and
eagles or owls.
- The Andean condor, a new world vulture, is the largest living flying
bird in the world with a 10-to-12-foot wing span and weighing 18 to
- An extinct new world vulture, Argentavis magnificens, had a wing
spread of 23 feet and an estimated weight of 160 to 170 pounds.
- Both new and old world vultures evolved some 50 million years ago.
They look alike because of convergent evolution -- they occupy similar