Photos and article by Kathryn Mann
The Turkey Vulture is one of the most amazing and beneficial birds in the world. We are fortunate that they are so abundant throughout Oklahoma. The spend much of their day soaring in the sky looking for food. Unlike most birds they rarely flap their wings, but are such skilled gliders that they can stay in the air for more than six hours. On a single flight that can also cover a distance of up to 200 miles.
Turkey Vulture soaring near Barnsdall, Oklahoma
I often come upon Turkey Vultures perched on trees as I walk along little used country roads or open fields throughout Oklahoma. They are a very gentle and non-aggressive bird, and even though their primary diet is the flesh of dead animals, they do not kill their prey. Turkey Buzzards are quiet birds rarely making any sounds except a hiss when they are frightened. They eat animals that have died from natural causes, hit by a car, or succumbed to disease.
Turkey Vulture perched on a tree in Osage State Park
Turkey vultures are one of Oklahoma's greatest recyclers, sanitizers, and road cleaners. They eat the rotten and sometimes diseased flesh of dead animals removing the stench and contamination from us and other animals. Amazingly their stomachs are able to digest diseased and rotten flesh without getting sick, and their ing droppings are not only disease free but also a natural sanitizer.
Turkey Vulture being chased by two Red-Winged Blackbirds outside of Bartlesville in May 2010
The Turkey Vulture unlike most birds has a keen sense of smell which it uses in conjunction with its great vision to find dead animals. Their diet is not all dead animals, as they also eat a wide variety of vegetation.
Turkey Vultures are large birds a little more than two feet in length with a wingspan of six feet. They often live as long as 20 years, and some have live d beyond thirty. Males and females are almost identical in appearance. They weigh as much as six pounds.
Lonely Turkey Vulture in the deserted town of Picher, Oklahoma
Turkey vultures are not buzzards, in fact there are no buzzards in the United States. Buzzards are actually a type of Hawk that lives in Europe.