Turkey Vulture


Turkey Vulture (Carthartes aura)

Paris is a Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura), a very common bird in Ohio.  They are remarkably intelligent animals and incredibly resistant to bacteria which would kill humans easily.  They can be easily recognized in flight by the flat “V” of their spread wings and the gentle sway as they soar.

Paris was brought to The Medina Raptor Center in August 2008 by two Cleveland policemen.  Paris was barely a year old and had been stoned out of a tree by a group of children.  She was badly injured and showed no improvement for several weeks.  One the day we planned to humanely end her suffering a volunteer took her for one last walk in the sun.  Paris immediately began to recuperate.  Her recovery from that point on was miraculous, but the amount of brain damage she incurred does not allow her to be released.

Now Paris shares her cage with Matilda, a fellow Turkey Vulture.  Vultures are a very social species so this suits them very well!  They also have company from the next cage with Orion our Rough-legged Hawk.  Paris is a wonderful ambassador for her species.  She has been actively participating in our educational programs for several years now.   Including Paris in our educational programs teaches children and adults how important scavengers are to our environment and how they help complete the cycle of life that is so important for our natural world.


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.