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Turkey Vultures Preening

6-8-17 turkey vultures 374

Turkey Vultures spend much of their day gliding and soaring with their wings out in a dihedral position, scavenging for carrion. This requires each of their wing feathers to be aligned in the most optimum position relative to its adjacent feathers and the bird’s body shape. In order to achieve this alignment (as well as dust, dirt and parasite removal and feather-oiling) Turkey Vultures typically spend two to three hours a day preening, mostly nibbling at the base of feathers, but also running their bill along the shaft of individual feathers from the base to the tip.

Typically in the morning they preen at their roost or in a communal post-roosting area on perches exposed to the sun before heading out to forage. Shortly before sunset they do the same in reverse, landing in an exposed pre-roosting perch site within half a mile of their roost site and engage in maintenance activities before bedding down at their roost site for the night.

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8 responses

  1. Many thanks for this posting. For the past 20 years or so a group of a dozen Turkey Vultures have roosted near us in Montpelier. Such a joy to watch them leave in the morning and come back in the late afternoon or early evening. I never realized what an crucial part of their day grooming was and will now have an even greater appreciation as I watch them come and go. Also, maybe in a future posting, could you talk about where they go during the day, how far, do they stick together, do they eat every day, what do they eat, and so forth?! Thanks.

    June 8, 2017 at 7:57 am

  2. Kathie Fiveash

    I have always wondered how the many turkey vultures I see patrolling the skies find enough carrion to sustain them. Most of the road kill seems to be frequented more by crows than vultures. And I would think that carrion in the forests would not be visible from the air. Another thing – this spring I have seen quite a few black vultures – perhaps they are moving their range north?

    June 8, 2017 at 8:16 am

  3. Thanks for all these wonderful posts. I have a [maybe silly] question— Are they called Turkey Vultures because they look a bit like turkeys, or because they attack and eat turkey? Also do birds have a sense of smell? Thanks, Ellen

    On Thu, Jun 8, 2017 at 7:11 AM, Naturally Curious with Mary Holland wrote:

    > Mary Holland posted: ” Turkey Vultures spend much of their day gliding and > soaring with their wings out in a dihedral position, scavenging for > carrion. This requires each of their wing feathers to be aligned in the > most optimum position relative to its adjacent feathers and t” >

    June 8, 2017 at 1:31 pm

    • Good questions! The lack of head feathers (so that they don’t get messed up when the vultures are eating carrion) make them look like turkeys. I’m sure they’d eat a dead turkey if they found one. Ornithologists used to think that birds had a very poor, if any, sense of smell, but it turns out that many species may smell well. Turkey Vultures definitely have a well developed sense of smell — that is how they locate the rotting food that they eat. They’ve even been used to locate leaks in gas lines!

      June 8, 2017 at 4:45 pm

  4. Guy W. Stoye

    We are very pleased, occasionally, when a turkey vulture lands in our yard to pick up fat scraps I regularly put out for the ravens. Have gotten several pretty good photos of him/her with the stealth camera. Hope I can post them to NATURALLY CURIOUS somehow.
    Most interesting about the “TVs” being so fastidious with their preening.

    June 8, 2017 at 7:38 pm

    • Unfortunately WordPress doesn’t allow others’ photos to be posted here, but if you send your tv’s to me at mholland@vermontel.net, I would love to see them!

      June 9, 2017 at 8:24 am

  5. Laura Andrews

    I loved this photo! Any chance you could make cards of it? It would make a very funny get-well card (for someone not very sick) or an unusual Christmas card. Thanks for your posts: I look forward to them every day. Laura

    June 9, 2017 at 8:33 pm

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