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Cathartes aura

Common Names: Turkey Vulture,
Cathartes aura
Cathartes aura

Scientific Classification

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Accipitriformes
Family: Cathartidae
Genus: Cathartes
Species: Cathartes aura

Conservation Status

Identifying Features

Turkey vultures are a large black colored bird with a red featherless head. When soaring, their wings make a characteristic “V” shape. Their wingspan is about 6 feet!

Habitat & Range

Turkey vultures are found throughout the US, Mexico, and most of South America. These birds live in open areas and woodland, and prefer to nest along cliff edges.


Turkey vultures are scavengers, with a preference towards freshly dead animals of almost any sort.

Life Cycle

To court, turkey vulture pairs will have a “follow flight” where one bird will lead the other in flight that may be repeated over several hours. These birds often nest on ledges, abandoned nests of other birds, or really wherever they can find that has an existing space for laying eggs. They don’t build a nest fully, and only do minimum adjustments. Often, they’ll use the same nest for many years. They lay a clutch of 1-3 eggs once a year. Babies are born mostly defenseless.

Featured image by Mike Baird.


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