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Turkey Vultures Return

Right on time, the second week of March, Turkey Vultures are back in central VT/NH. Recognizing them is not too hard – they’re bigger than any other raptor in New England except for eagles.  At a distance Turkey Vultures look all black, but a closer look reveals that the undersides of the flight feathers, along the trailing edge and wing tips, are lighter in color than the rest of the bird, giving the wing a two-toned appearance. (Black Vulture wings are solid black with silvery tips.)  The feathers at the wing tips are often separated, which some birders refer to as ‘fingers.’   In addition, vultures hold their wings slightly raised, forming a ‘V’ or dihedral shape in the sky when viewed head-on.   Turkey Vultures soar in circles as they ride the thermals, using their sense of smell to locate tasty carcasses on the ground.  


4 responses

  1. ht

    Mary, On our Ohio farm the turkey vultures would roost on the ridge of the barn roofs. We see only the occasional turkey vulture here, but have never seen them on buildings. Where do they “hang out” here?

    March 6, 2012 at 11:38 pm

    • Hi HT,
      Turkey vultures are seen soaring over farmland and woods, and particularly along roadsides and at landfills, where their scavenging meets with success most often. At night they roost in trees, on rocks and other secluded spots. Turkey vultures nest in rock crevices, caves, ledges, mammal burrows, hollow logs, abandoned buildings and abandoned hawk and heron nests. I’ve personally only seen them working on a carcass by the road or soaring overhead.

      March 7, 2012 at 9:24 pm

  2. Henry Holland

    Hi Mary (again),

    Are Turkey Vultures considered raptors? I have always classified them as scavengers. Or does the classification of raptor include both scavenger and preditor? We have a bunch of them in Michigan.


    March 7, 2012 at 1:07 pm

    • Hi Henry!
      Yes, turkey vultures are considered raptors, though for a while they were thought to be more closely related to storks than to hawks, etc. The term raptor usually refers to diurnal birds of prey, of which there are five families. New World vultures, including the turkey vulture, are in the Cathartidae family (hawks, falcons, osprey, etc. are in one of four other families). So yes, raptors can be scavengers, and even though turkey vultures lack the strong talons of most raptors, they’re still considered one!

      March 7, 2012 at 9:18 pm

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