Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura)

Description
Turkey Vulture

Size

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

Appearance

  • 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".
Distribution
  • 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

Habitat

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

Food

  • 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

Status

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

Issues

  • 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