Turkey Vulture Profile (the following is borrowed fully or adapted from the Turkey Vulture Society website)
"What is a Vulture?
Vultures are large carrion-eating birds. For years it was believed that all vultures were raptors, members of the order Falconiformes. In 1994, however, it was discovered that the vultures inhabiting the American continents share a common ancestor with storks and ibises. Now, American vultures, or New World vultures, are recognized as Ciconiiformes, in the family Cathartidae. European, African, and Asian vultures are recognized as Old World vultures (family Accipitridae, subfamily Aegypiinae). There are 15 species of Old World Vultures and 7 Species of New World Vultures.
The Old World vultures have relatively strong feet, like the clutching talons of their raptorial ancestors. New World vultures have weak, chicken-like feet, which are suitable for running on the ground. These vultures cannot lift or carry food with their feet. They can only step on their food to hold it in place while eating. Similarly, the New World vultures have weaker, thinner beaks, unlike the strong beaks of their Old World counterparts.
What is a Buzzard?
Buzzard is the correct term for a family of hawks. In America, the term is often employed incorrectly to describe vultures. This probably dates back to the arrival of the first English colonists. There are no vultures of any type in England, so these pioneers probably gave the common term "buzzard" to all the soaring figures above the New World.
The New World Vulture
New World vultures are distributed in North, Central, and South America. They include the Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura; Black Vulture, Coragyps atratus; California Condor, Gymnogyps californianus; Andean Condor, Vultur gryphus; King Vulture; and the Greater and Lesser Yellow-Headed Vultures. The Turkey Vulture is the subject of this report.
The Turkey Vulture is common in the United States. Its keen sense of smell is vital for finding carrion. Black Vultures, a more southern species, lack the graceful flight pattern of the Turkey Vulture and depend more on keen eyesight than sense of smell. The California Condor, along with the Andean Condor, is one of the world's largest flying birds. Because of many years of persecution, the California Condor is in danger of extinction; an estimated 40 to 60 birds exist today.
The Turkey Vulture’s Appearance:
The Turkey Vulture's head, like its namesake, is bald and red. Its plumage is primarily dark brown (see photo to right).
There is an important purpose to the vulture's bald head. When the vulture is eating carrion, it must often stick its head inside the carcass to reach the meat. A feathery head would capture unwanted pieces of the vulture's meal, along with all the bacteria it hosts. After mealtime, the turkey vulture perches in the heat of the sun. Here, whatever has managed to cling to the few bits of fuzz on their head will be baked off once and for all.
Genders appear identical.
25 to 32 inches long, with a wingspan around 6 feet.
Healthy adult Turkey Vultures weigh approximately 6 pounds.
Turkey vultures, like most other vultures, have very few vocalization capabilities. They can only utter hisses and grunts. They usually hiss when they feel threatened. Grunts are commonly heard from hungry young, and adults in courtship.
The Turkey Vulture, contrary to popular belief, does not feed strictly on carrion. This bird enjoys plant matter as well, including shoreline vegetation, pumpkin, and bits of other crops. The Turkey Vulture soars above the ground for most of the day, searching for food with its excellent eyesight and highly developed sense of smell.
Extremely unaggressive and non-confrontational, the Turkey vulture will not feed on live prey, an occasional habit of its cousin the black vulture.
Turkey Vultures can often be seen along roadsides, cleaning up road-kill, or near rivers, feasting on washed-up fish, another of their favorite foods.
Turkey Vultures fly with their wings in a dihedral (V-shape). They are most graceful in flight, and can soar for hours at high altitudes without ever flapping their wings. Their occasional necessary flaps and takeoffs are quite laborious, however, and the birds often fall victim to predators and cars as a result.
How the Turkey Vulture Flies:
The turkey vulture is one of the most skilled gliders among the North American birds. It migrates across the continents with minimal energy output. Vultures launch themselves from their perches only after the morning air has warmed. Then, they circle upward, searching for pockets of rising warm air, or thermals. Once they have secured a thermal, they allow it to carry them upward in rising circles. When they reach the top of the thermal, they dive across the sky at speeds near 60 miles per hour, losing altitude until they reach another thermal. All this is done without the necessity to flap. In fact, the turkey vulture can glide for over 6 hours at a time without flapping a wing!
By far the most widespread of the New World vultures, the Turkey Vulture can be found throughout the entire United States, north into Canada along the east and west coasts, and south into central South America.
These birds prefer open areas, but can be found almost anywhere. They live along coastlines; in deserts; throughout plains; and even in inland forests.
The Turkey Vulture is gentle and non-aggressive. Turkey Vultures roost in large community groups, breaking away to forage independently during the day. They will perch in lofty locales where they can take full advantage of the sun’s arched movement through the sky.
Turkey Vulture Nests:
The turkey vulture nests on the ground and in caves. It does not construct a traditional "nest," but rather scratches out an indentation in the soil. Vulture nests are often found in abandoned barns and sheds, which provide safe hiding places similar to a cave of hollowed log.
Turkey vultures can raise only one brood a year, consisting of 1 to 3 (but usually 2) blotchy-looking eggs. Both parents share the responsibilities of incubating and caring for the brood.
Young are covered in pure white down, and have dark grey faces.
The eggs incubate for 38 to 41 days. Both parents share the responsibilities of incubation.
Young fledge 70 to 80 days after hatching. Immature fledglings still have darker heads, and from a distance can be confused with the black vulture.
This bird is protected by international Migratory Bird treaties, and its numbers are healthy. It is estimated that turkey vulture populations have grown by 1.79% in recent years.
The most reliable relocation method is a shocking barrier( shocking barriers are harmless, while being chemical and poison free). The most reliable shocking barrier is an air insulated electric barrier specially adapted for Buzzards and Vultures. The service life and component's life of air insulated electric barriers is 3x to several times longer than tracks, tapes, and strips. This is because the Vultures and Buzzards system must be placed mostly in full sun and only air insulated electric barrier lasts decades in the full sun.
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