Turkey Vulture

turkey vulture at elk carcass
All 4 of these birds are Turkey Vultures. The first thing you probably noticed was that strong hooked bill. Like with the Red-tailed Hawk, this bird is a carnivore, using that big beak to tear into meat. Unlike the Red-tailed Hawk, Turkey Vultures are not hunters. Vultures are scavengers and like their prey already dead. Even so, Turkey Vultures are excellent fliers and may be amongst the best soarers in the bird world.

Turkey Vultures have another feature that is relatively unique amongst birds. They have an excellent sense of smell. Did you see the turkey vultures nose in that closeup? Sensitive enough to smell food over a mile away this distinctive nose is a very useful characteristic for Turkey Vultures.

You probably also noticed that three of the Turkey Vultures look more alike than the other and have featherless pink heads. These are adult Turkey Vultures whereas the fourth is a juvenile. There is no color distinction among gender in Turkey Vultures but a young Turkey Vulture starts its fledgling life with a black head.

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Last updated: November 22, 2020

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Bandelier National Monument
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Los Alamos, NM 87544

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