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Turkey Vulture Facts and Pictures

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
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 Close-Up
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 and Red-Winged Blackbirds
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.

Turkey Vulture of Oklahoma
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.



Greg      11:02 PM Sun 7/24/2016

Just watched two of these creatures feast in our field after plowing the blue stem grass. Must be a bunch of mice and other choice carcasses.

Medo      5:35 PM Wed 12/23/2015

Several vultures cicreld about which was fitting for the dry weather and dry landscape of the hills.The first bird my youngest child could call by its name is a turkey vulture. I like to watch the vultures glide through the air even though I see them everyday at home. I have turkey vultures for neighbors.

Eleen      5:03 PM Mon 10/12/2015

I love this: Straightening their ties, they discuss eltbaroae plans to go public. Someday, they claim, they will become hawks or eagles. Can't wait to read your bird collection I love birds- even the big, bad and ugly!

anthony      6:47 AM Tue 5/5/2015

I have a black vulture here on my property appearing to be walking forward side heavy with one wing laying lower than it's left... What do I do.. It looks like it's suffering and will not be able to eat. poor guy

jodie b      7:30 AM Tue 10/14/2014

We live in the country south of stroud. And I wondered where they roost.I saw about 7 of them on the road just standing in the shade

jodie b      7:28 AM Tue 10/14/2014

We live in the country south of stroud. And I wondered where they roost.I saw about 7 of them on the road just standing in the shade

jodie b      7:28 AM Tue 10/14/2014

We live in the country south of stroud. And I wondered where they roost.I saw about 7 of them on the road just standing in the shade

Roy Hubbard      9:26 AM Tue 9/23/2014

I live on the coast of Georgia. We have our share of both Black and
Turkey Vultures.
I have always called them "buzzards" from childhood. Everyone here does. My wife and I were just quetioning the difference between a "buzzard" and a "vulture". I am surprised to find, if the information here is totally correct, that we don't have any "buzzards" in the USA.

It is my understanding that the Turkey Vulture hunts primarily with it's sense of smell. It is capable of flying overhead and guiding itself down to a dead animal by following the sent trail that spirals up into the air, wherein a Black Vulture is a sight feeder only.
I understand a Black vulture will follow a Turkey down to their find and rob them of it. The Black is apparently more aggressive.
I also have never seen a Turkey Vulture as a victim of road kill. I have surmised that since the Turkey hunts by scent it can restrict it's feeding area to off road where a Black uses the open area of highways to spot their next meal, thus the frequent road kill of Black Vultures.
On the latter, it is a shame that people can't use their brakes and add just the extra second or two to their travel time that will allow the clumsy big bird enough time to get out of the way of a speeding car. It seems that the large percentage of road kill of Black Vultures occur on secondary roads and not interstates, roads where a slowdown of five miles an hour for a few seconds is not a safety issue.
P.S. Vultures are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty of 1918!

mo      9:18 PM Tue 8/26/2014

saw one of these today on the side of the road in Norman! thought i was seeing things....first time to see one...kind of jarring when not expecting that to turn around an stare at you while driving by to get your child home from school, lol....we sped up.... quickly!!

Valerie Olson      7:58 AM Fri 3/7/2014

I am with a small non-profit here in Santa Barbara ... www.moremesa.org. Our mission is to preserve a wonderful open space, More Mesa, along our coast. We are having a Symposium about More Mesa in which we will talk about all the raptors in our area. I noticed that your photos of Turkey Vultures are really good and would like to use one of them (with attribution) in the Raptor paper. Is that possible?

Ann-Marie      8:21 AM Wed 10/2/2013

I live in Lone Grove Ok, about 10 miles NW of Ardmore. We have hundreds of vultures all over this area. They are ugly and smell bad , but dead animals do not stay on the road(or anywhere else) for more than a day. Sometimes you will see more than 20 together on a large carcass. I saw them eat a deer in less than 3 days. They do the job God intended them to do, and they do it well. I'm surprised they're range hasn't increased with the advent of cars. The more road kill, the more vultures you would think.

sasha      12:45 PM Mon 7/22/2013

there is six or seven of them outside wondering arowned

R.VIGNESH      6:40 AM Sat 6/22/2013

we brought one bird and we don't know that which bird is this after seeing this webpage we know that it resembles the picture and we came to know that which bird we bought that was an vulture

Vinnie      3:43 PM Tue 6/4/2013

These birds are in and around Tulsa a lot.

Bug      1:37 AM Fri 5/17/2013

Saw 4 today in edmond in our neighborhood. Was crazy how big they are. Poor squirrelly lost his head...

Margie Byrd-Dean      12:37 PM Fri 5/10/2013

I was wondering if OK had vultures because I was attending a gathering about two weeks ago and I swear I saw one. It was flying low around N.E. 30th in Oklahoma City. Good no know I am not crazy.

Rick Nunley      10:06 AM Fri 5/3/2013

We have 2 nesting in downtown OKC on top of the Leadership Square building about 2 blocks from Chesapeake Arena and the Thunder.

Samantha Welch      4:04 PM Tue 4/23/2013

i live in Northern Montana and and just about a year ago w-e had these birds we was mistaking as eagles for awhile but there are about 8-12 perched on our local police dispatch tower in town jus wondering what brings them and makes them stay!!seems like they only time they come around is wen winter is just getting over we spotted them about two weeks ago again...we've had sorta a long winter with mixed weather!!

Arthur Ezell      3:36 PM Fri 10/19/2012

I just saw a turkey vulture in suburban Columbia, S.C.

I've never seen one before.

Uplifting Visions
a guide to happiness, good health, and success
Charly Mann in a Hawaiian shirt
by Charly Mann

From the age of seven I have been enchanted with the idea of living happily ever after, and have made it a life quest to find that answer. I have spoken to hundreds of people – usually older and wiser than me, and read countless books and articles on the subject. In my website Uplifting Visions I share what I consider the best insights I have learned about achieving happiness in life.

Oklahoma Birds Listed by Color

House Finch - male (carpodacus mexicanus)
Purple Finch - male (carpodacus purpureus)
Northern Cardinal - male (cardinalis cardinalis)
Painted Bunting - male (passerina ciris)
Summer Tanager - male (piranga rubra)

Baltimore Oriole - male (icterus galbula)
Orchard Oriole - male (icterus spurius)

Yellow Warbler (dendroica petechia )
Baltimore Oriole - female (icterus galbula)
Orchard Oriole - female (icterus spurius)
Summer Tanager - female (piranga rubra)
Yellow Goldfinch - male (carduelis tristis)
Western Kingbird (tyrannus verticalis)
Eastern Meadowlark (sturnella magna)

Malard - male (anas platyrhynchos)
Dark-eyed Junco - female (junco hyemalis)
Ruby-throated Hummingbird (archilochus colubris)
Painted Bunting - female (passerina ciris)
Green Heron (butorides virescens)

Barn Swallow (hirundo rustica)
Belted Kingfisher (ceryle alcyon)
Blue Jay (cyanocitta cristata)
Blue Grosbeak - male (guiraca caerulea)
Eastern Bluebird (sailia sialis)
Indigo Bunting - male (passerina cyanea)
Purple Martin - male (progne subis)

Great Blue Heron (ardea herodias)
Carolina Chickadee (poecile carolinensis)
Eastern Screech-Owl (otus asio)
Red-breasted Nuthatch (sitta canadensis)
Grey Catbird (dumetella carolinensis)
Ruby-crowned Kinglet (regulus calendula)
Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher (tyrannus forficatus)
White-breasted Nuthatch (sitta carolinensis)
Tufted Titmouse (baelophus bicolor)
American Robin (turdus migratorius)
Northern Mockingbird (mimus polyglottos)
Mississippi Kite (ictinia mississippiensis)
Dickcissel (spiza americana)

American Crow (corvus brachyrhynchos)
Brown-headed Cowbird - male (molothrus ater)
European Starling (sturnus vulgaris)
Common Grackle (quiscalus quiscula)
Red-winged Blackbird - male (agelaius phoeniceus)
Spotted Towhee (pipilo maculatus)
Turkey Vulture (cathartes aura)

Black & White
American Bald Eagle (haliaeetus leucocephalus)
Black-billed Magpie (pica hudsonia)
Downey Woodpecker (picoides pubescens)
Red-Bellied Woodpecker (melanerpes carolinus)
Purple Martin - female (progne subis)
Eastern Kingbird (tyrannus tyrannus)
Dark-eyed Junco - male (junco hyemalis)
Loggerhead Shrike (lanius ludovicianus)

American Kestrel (falco sparverius)
Blue Grosbeak - female (guiraca caerulea)
Brown-headed Cowbird - female (molothrus ater)
Brown Thrasher (toxostoma rufum)
Common Nighthawk (chordeiles minor)
Carolina Wren (thryothorus ludovicianus)
Cedar Waxwing (bombycilla cedrorum)
Greater Roadrunner (geococcyx californianus)
Killdeer (charadrius vociferus)
Northern Bobwhite (colinus virginianus)
Red-tailed Hawk (buteo jamaicensis)
Cliff Swallow (petrochelidon pyrrhonota)
Horned Lark (eremophila alpestris)
House Finch - female (carpodacus mexicanus)
Northern Flicker (colaptes auratus)
Yellow-billed Cuckoo (coccyzus americanus)
Mourning Dove (zenaida macroura)
Malard - female (anas platyrhynchos)
Purple Finch - female (carpodacus purpureus)
House Sparrow (passer domesticus)
Indigo Bunting - female (passerina cyanea)
Red-winged Blackbird - female (agelaius phoeniceus)
Spotted Sandpiper (actitis macularia)
Upland Sandpiper (bartramia longicauda)
Northern Cardinal - female (cardinalis cardinalis)
Eastern Screech-Owl (otus asio)
Yellow Goldfinch - female (carduelis tristis)
Canada Goose (branta canadensis)

Wild Birds of Northeast OK

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