To better serve site visitors, Government of Alberta ministry web content is being centralized on Webpages on this ministry site will be either relocated to or removed over the next few months. Messaging and redirects will help guide you to updated content during and after this transition. Scheduled completion date for this project is March 31, 2019. Thank you for your patience as we proceed with these changes.

Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura)

Turkey Vulture


  • About 75 centimetres (30 inches) long.
  • Wingspan often reaches 1.8 metres (6 feet).


  • A beneficial scavenger, the turkey vulture is identified by:
    • a small red and unfeathered head
    • brownish black plumage
    • large size
  • In flight it soars effortlessly for long periods, often at great heights.
  • Wings are held above horizontal in a definite "V".
  • The turkey vulture breeds from northern Mexico to southern Canada, and winters from the southern states to South America.
  • A small but growing population occurs in Alberta. In 2012, 28 nests were documented in east-central Alberta, and 190 young vultures have been wing-tagged in this area in the last 5 years. This represents the northern breeding range for turkey vultures.
Natural History


  • Can often be found in areas with open country or shorelines.


  • Diet consists entirely of carrion.
  • Young vultures are fed with regurgitated matter from the parents.

When Active

  • In Alberta, the turkey vulture is active from May through to September.
Reproduction and Growth

Breeding Behavior

  • No nest is built. Eggs are laid on the ground:
    • In caves
    • Near logs or boulders
    • On cliffs
  • One to three yellowish-white eggs with brown markings are laid.
Conservation and Management


The turkey vulture is classified as Secure in the 2010 General Status of Alberta Wild Species report. See:


  • Turkey vulture population is very small in the province.

Current management

  • The turkey vulture is protected by the provincial Wildlife Act and classified as a non-game species.


Page Information

Updated: Jan 8, 2014