• Red cliffs descend into the water of Bighorn Canyon

    Bighorn Canyon

    National Recreation Area MT,WY

Turkey Vulture

Turkey Vulture
Turkey Vulture
NPS
 

The Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura) is a fairly common carrion eater that scavenges throughout the Bighorn Canyon region from April through November. They breed in this area, but some will migrate during the winter months.

Redheads
Their wingspan can be up to six feet, but their body length is just over two feet. With its dark brown plumage and large size it is easy to mistake it for an eagle at first, so observers need to look for its smaller head devoid of feathers and the lighter color on the underside of the wing’s trailing edge. In the mature vulture the head color is red. They were named Turkey Vultures because of the similar characteristics their red head shares with Turkeys.

They search for carrion during soaring, often circular flights, using not only their keen eyesight but their acute sense of smell. Other vultures commonly join in when possible food is discovered. They are gregarious and as such not only may be found feeding in groups but also roost in good sized communities.

With Wings Spread
Mating involves several competing individuals hoping about with the wings spread partway open. They then lay their eggs in caves, rocky crevices, on the ground under bushes or in stumps as they do not build nests. Both parents will incubate the eggs and then bring food to the hatchlings which they regurgitate.

Sometimes a group of vultures can be seen all holding their wings spread out. Most likely they are either drying out their wings, warming their body or baking off bacteria. At Bighorn Canyon they are most often spotted during their search for food. These vultures are found throughout the continental United States.

Did You Know?

Red chugwater cliffs at Horseshoe Bend, photo by Sharon Genaux

There are five distinct rock layers exposed in the ridge at Horseshoe Bend. The Sundance Formation contains marine fossils such as gryphaea, belemnites, and crinoid stems. Above the Sundance, the Morrison Formation, of Jurassic age, contains diplodocus and allosaurus dinosaur fossils. More...