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Turkey Vultures Staying Cool

On hot, humid summer days, consider the ingenuity of the Turkey Vulture.  When overly hot, this bird will often defecate on its own legs.  The water in its waste (feces and urine are eliminated simultaneously through a bird’s cloaca) evaporates and cools the blood vessels in the Turkey Vulture’s unfeathered legs and feet, which results in cooling the entire bird.

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6 responses

  1. Sonya

    The turkey vulture has become one of my favorite birds! I discovered last year that they nest underneath our remote camp in Vermont.
    Since observing there rearing and fledging last year, I have so much newfound respect I love for them! They are such a misunderstood animal.
    So essential to our ecosystem!

    July 12, 2021 at 8:13 am

  2. And then if the vulture needs to clean the dried poop/pee off its legs, it can avoid dirtying any feathers by using its naked head ,which evolved to allow it to eat carrion without mucking up its feathers. Double duty.

    July 12, 2021 at 9:15 am

  3. Alice

    Seems like a temporary fix.

    July 12, 2021 at 11:35 am

  4. Bill on the Hill

    Obviously from a human perspective, urinating & defecating down one’s legs would be most revolting, however these birds are truly amazing creatures in their own right. I see them often circling the CRV cliffs along route 5 & I-91…
    I’ve see them catching the thermals out my way in the highlands of central VT as well on occasion…They cover vast amounts of territory with relative ease too..
    Interesting image Mary, not sure if you did the white background in PS or is this the way the camera caught it?
    Bill on the Hill… :~)

    July 12, 2021 at 12:09 pm

    • It was a gray day, Bill! No PS. I love watching them gracefully float and tilt in the air!

      July 13, 2021 at 2:52 pm

  5. Oh my gosh. I love this, and also the several enthusiastic appreciations of turkey vultures people have shared!

    July 12, 2021 at 10:23 pm

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