Turkey Vulture (Carthartes aura)

Two Cleveland policemen brought Paris to the Medina Raptor Center in August 2008. She had severe head trauma from a beating by a group of children. Initially she was not thriving at the Center but a very perceptive individual knew that Turkey Vultures love the sun and recommended she be moved to an outside cage. Immediately her attitude changed and she quickly recovered. Paris is now a gentle bird and a distinguished educational ambassador for her species and the Center.


About Turkey Vultures

(Information taken from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology)

Although it has an ugly, bare-skinned face, the Turkey Vulture is beautiful on the wing. Seldom does this graceful and talented bird flap its wings as it soars over large areas searching for carrion.

  • Large soaring bird.
  • Long wings and tail.
  • Body feathers entirely blackish-brown.
  • Red head mostly unfeathered.
  • Size: 64-81 cm (25-32 in)
  • Wingspan: 170-178 cm (67-70 in)
  • Weight: 2000 g (70.6 ounces)
  • Flight feathers on wings appear silvery-gray underneath, contrasting with the darker wing linings.
  • Red head mostly unfeathered.
  • Relatively short, hooked bill ivory-colored.
  • Soars for long periods, flaps wings infrequently and slowly.
  • While soaring holds wings slightly up in a V shape.
Sex Differences

Sexes appear similar, but female slightly larger.


Juvenile has gray head with black beak tip


Wide variety of carrion, from small mammals to dead cows. Also some insects, other invertebrates, and some fruit

Summer Range:

Breeds from southern Canada throughout the United States and southward through southern South America and the Caribbean. Local or absent in Great Plains

Winter Range:

Winters from northern California, Mexican border, eastern Texas, southern Missouri, and southern New York southward throughout the southeastern United States and south.

  • Prefers rangeland and areas of mixed farmland and forest.
  • Roosts in large trees or on large urban buildings.

Soars over large distances and detects carrion by sight and smell.

Nest Type:

No nest structure. Puts eggs directly on ground in caves, crevices, mammal burrows, hollow logs, under fallen trees, or in abandoned buildings.

Egg Description:

Creamy-white with dark blotches around large end.

Clutch Size:

Usually 2 eggs. Range: 1-3

Condition at Hatching:

Downy and helpless. Unable to hold head up, but can hiss.

Conservation Status

Overall North American populations have increased over the last few decades and the breeding range has expanded northward.


Usually silent. Makes hiss at carcasses, roosts, and nests.