Lakeside Nature Center

Critter Corner - Turkey Vulture
(Cathartes aura)


The turkey vulture is closely related to the California condor.  These two birds, along with the black vulture, are grouped by scientists in the same classification as storks and flamingos.


The turkey vulture's scientific name means cleanser, which perfectly describes their role in nature.  They eat carrion (animals that are already dead).  Turkey vultures clean up road kill and other rotting carcasses that contain diseases that could make humans or their pets sick.


Turkey vultures do not build nests.  Instead a mated pair will lay their eggs on the ground, a rock ledge, a cave or in a hollow tree.  The female lays two eggs, and both parents incubate them until they hatch in about a month.  Three months after hatching, the young vultures are ready to fly.  They may live more than 20 years.


Turkey vultures are found in almost every habitat in North America.  Turkey vultures live in large groups called roosts.  The current generation and their future generations will use the same roost for many years.  They live and work together -- when a large feast is located, they even communicate with their neighbors in another roost.  Turkey vultures are often seen soaring together as they search for rood.


Turkey vultures' strong, sharp beaks, which are used for tearing meat, make great weapons.  Vultures have a unique way to protect themselves -- they vomit!  Because of its strong stomach acids, a vulture's vomit smells horrible.  The predator thinks that the vulture probably won't taste good if it smells so bad.


  • Turkey vultures spend several hours preening themselves and will even bathe if water is available.

  • Scientists believe turkey vultures may be as intelligent as domestic dogs.

Check out both of Lakeside's turkey vultures:  Adult and Juvenile .

 To learn more about Turkey vultures

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(Photo credits: Portrait of Turkey vulture, Missouri Department of Conservation; Soaring Vulture, US Geological Survey [A. Wilson, photographer], Vulture roost from Montana Department of Fisheries, Wildlife and Parks [John Carlson, photographer] )

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