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Clean-up Crew Has Arrived

New England’s skies have been devoid of the wheeling antics of our most prominent avian scavenger, the Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura) since last October.  The first migrants are returning, and just in time to recycle winter’s roadkills such as the raccoon carcass pictured.

Turkey Vultures have keen vision and road-killed animals are fairly easy to spot, but scientists have wondered for many years how they locate carrion hidden from view, such as those within forests.  It’s been determined that they do so primarily with their highly developed sense of smell. Turkey Vultures have an extremely large olfactory bulb—the area of the brain responsible for processing odors.  When it comes to detecting food by smell alone, the Turkey Vulture has the most finely-attuned sense of smell among nearly all birds and is known to be able to smell carrion from over a mile away.

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6 responses

  1. Rita Pitkin


    March 19, 2021 at 9:40 am

  2. Alice

    It’s really nice of them to clean up…but what a gross meal.

    March 19, 2021 at 9:56 am

  3. Carol Evans

    A friend told me a nasty old aunt of hers took several days dying. In that period of time 3 turkey vultures camped on the ridge of her roof. Yikes!! Must have been that sense of smell you mentioned.

    March 19, 2021 at 10:13 am

    • That is fascinating, Carol!

      March 19, 2021 at 11:07 am

      • Mary, I just made some fabulous thermal images of Skunk Cabbage. Some showed a 40F rise over ambient. Your email ( has bounced back but would love to share them with you if you can let me know how to best do that.

        March 20, 2021 at 3:43 pm

  4. Carpe Corpus Cervus

    March 28, 2021 at 4:59 am

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