Turkey Vulture Turkey Vulture

One of three vulture species (turkey, black, and California condor) found in the US, the turkey vulture is the only one found within Wyoming's borders (except for the occasional "accidental" sighting of the others).

Fun Critter Facts

This abundant species has the widest distribution of the three and can be found from central Canada to the very south tip of South America.

- Turkey vultures feed almost exclusively on carrion.  They have very keen eyesight, and the best developed olfactory ability of any bird (most birds have little or no sense of smell).  Turkey vultures have been known to locate very small (but decomposing) carrion at over a mile away. 

- All turkey vultures have "naked" (featherless) heads that prevent carrion from fouling feathers.  Adults have a bright red head.  Juveniles have a head that is blackish in color, and can sometimes be confused with the smaller black vulture.

- Turkey vultures are great fliers, moving long distances buoyed by thermals.  They can often be observed riding thermals in large flocks, a visual spectacle referred to as "kettling."

- Female vultures generally lay two eggs under a rock overhang or similar structure on bare rock.  Nest initiation in Wyoming may be as late as the first part of July.  Both parents incubate and care for the helpless young for a period of 9 to 11 weeks, feeding them through regurgitation.  Regurgitation is also used by both adults and juveniles as a defense mechanism, one of the less pleasant defense strategies in the animal kingdom.

- Turkey vultures have few natural enemies and do not typically represent food for any species.  They are taken on a very rare occasion by larger raptors such as eagles, and young or eggs may be consumed by mid-sized carnivores or omnivores.  Feeding on decomposing flesh (and the willingness to use it in defense) apparently has its benefits.  

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