Least Concern


Turkey Vulture

Cathartes aura

The Turkey Vulture is a bird found throughout most of the Americas. It is also known in some North American regions as the Turkey Buzzard, and in some areas of the Caribbean as the John Crow or Carrion Crow. It inhabits a variety of open and semi-open areas, including subtropical forests, shrublands, pastures, and deserts. A large bird, it has a wingspan of 183 cm, a length of 81 cm, and weight of 3 kg. It has dark brown to black plumage; a featherless, purplish-red head and neck; and a short, hooked, ivory-colored beak. Its life span of over 30 years being possible.

The Turkey Vulture is a scavenger and feeds almost exclusively on carrion. It finds its meals using its keen vision and sense of smell, flying low enough to detect the gasses produced by the beginnings of the process of decay in dead animals. In flight, it uses thermals to move through the air, flapping its wings infrequently. It roosts in large community groups. It nests in caves, hollow trees, or thickets. Each year it generally raises two chicks, which it feeds by regurgitation. It has very few natural predators.

The body feathers are mostly brownish-black, but the flight feathers on the wings appear to be silvery-gray beneath, contrasting with the darker wing linings. The adults head is small in proportion to its body and is red in color with few to no feathers. It also has a relatively short, hooked, ivory-colored beak. The irises of the eyes are gray-brown; legs and feet are pink-skinned, although typically stained white. The eye has a single incomplete row of eyelashes on the upper lid and two rows on the lower lid.

The two front toes of the foot are long and have small webs at their bases. The feet are flat, relatively weak, and poorly adapted to grasping. In flight, the tail is long and slim, in contrast to that of the Black Vulture. The nostrils are not divided by a septum, but rather are perforate; from the side one can see through the beak. It undergoes a molt in late winter to early spring. It is a gradual molt, which lasts until early autumn. The immature bird has a gray head with a black beak tip; the colors change to those of the adult as the bird matures. Lifespan is about 21 years.

Turkey Buzzard, John Crow, Carrion Crow

Regional Names
  • French:
    Urubu à tête rouge
Media Gallery

Cathartes aura

Similar Birds

similar Birds you may like


Andean Condor

Vultur gryphus
Read more

Black Vulture

Coragyps atratus
Read more

California Condor

Gymnogyps californianus
Read more

King Vulture

Sarcoramphus papa
Read more

Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture

Cathartes burrovianus
Read more