California Raptor Center

Turkey Vulture

Scientific Name: Cathartes aura
(Cathartes is from the Greek kathartes meaning ‘a purifier’ aura possibly derives from the Latin aurum ‘gold’ a refernce to museum specimens’ head color, but is more likely a Latinezed version of a Latin American word for‘vulture’).

Size: Length: 24-28in Wingspan: 63-71in        

Weight: Female: 1990-2347g (~4.4-5.2lb) Male: 2079-2387g (~4.6-5.3lb)

Lifespan: They can live for as many as 30 years or more, but often live for just 5 in the wild.

ID: They are huge black birds with silvery, two-toned flight feathers and a bare head. In juveniles the head and bead is black. In the adults the head is read with an ivory white beak. Juveniles have a red head with a beak tipped in black. 

Hunting: Turkey Vultures are scavengers and eat carrion. 

Prey: An important food source for them is road kill.   

Breeding: They don’t build nests, but instead lay their eggs in scrapes on the ground or in cliffs, or, occasionally they will nest in dead, decayed tree hollows. Clutches are typically 2 eggs which hatch after 38 to 41 days. The young fledge after 8 to 9 weeks.

Range: They are partial migrators, and can be found all over the continental United States and Mexico. 

Status: Turkey Vultures are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.