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Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura)

By EyesFront
Taken on East Falkland around an accommodation building.

The first picture is from alongside a staircase where it was preparing for departure first thing in the morning. Apologies for the second as it appears slightly out of focus now it's in full size. I definitely need to go back and get some more shots, now I know a little bit more about taking pictures. Smile I've added them for info' viewing only.


The Turkey Vulture received its common name from the resemblance of the adult's bald red head and its dark plumage to that of the male Wild Turkey, while the name "vulture" is derived from the Latin word vulturus, meaning "tearer," and is a reference to its feeding habits.

The Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura), also known in some North American regions as the turkey buzzard (or just buzzard), and in some areas of the Caribbean as the John crow or carrion crow, is the most widespread of the New World vultures. One of three species in the genus Cathartes, in the family Cathartidae, the Turkey Vulture ranges from southern Canada to the southernmost tip of South America. It inhabits a variety of open and semi-open areas, including subtropical forests, shrublands, pastures, and deserts.

The Turkey Vulture is a scavenger and feeds almost exclusively on carrion. It finds its food using its keen eyes and sense of smell, flying low enough to detect the gases produced by the beginnings of the process of decay in dead animals. In flight, it uses thermals to move through the air, flapping its wings infrequently. It roosts in large community groups. Lacking a syrinx—the vocal organ of birds—its only vocalizations are grunts or low hisses. It nests in caves, hollow trees, or thickets. Each year it generally raises two chicks, which it feeds by regurgitation. It has very few natural predators.

The Turkey Vulture is gregarious and roosts in large community groups, breaking away to forage independently during the day. Its life expectancy in the wild ranges upward of 16 years. Like other vultures, it plays an important role in the ecosystem by disposing of carrion which would otherwise be a breeding ground for disease.

The Turkey Vulture forages by smell, an ability that is uncommon in the avian world. It often will fly low to the ground to pick up the scent of ethyl mercaptan, a gas produced by the beginnings of decay in dead animals. The olfactory lobe of its brain, responsible for processing smells, is particularly large compared to that of other animals. This heightened ability to detect odors allows it to search for carrion below the forest canopy. King Vultures, Black Vultures and condors, which lack the ability to smell carrion, follow the Turkey Vulture to carcasses.

The Turkey Vulture is sometimes accused of carrying anthrax or hog cholera, both livestock diseases, on its feet or bill by cattle ranchers and is therefore occasionally perceived as a threat. However, the virus that causes hog cholera is destroyed when it passes through the Turkey Vulture's digestive tract. This species also may be perceived as a threat by farmers due to the similar Black Vulture's tendency to attack and kill newborn cattle. The Turkey Vulture does not kill live animals but will mix with flocks of Black Vultures and will scavenge what they leave behind.

Tags: Birds Travel General Vulture Falkland islands Turkey vulture Wildlife and nature Cathartes aura

Voters: debu, M_squared, abeeror2 and 1 more

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debu 11 India
13 Nov 2012 10:54AM
A couple of good captures.

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