A turkey vulture is a large bird with black feathers. The undersides of its flight feathers are silver or white in color, and can be seen only when the bird is flying. As its name suggests, this bird has a bald head that resembles that of a turkey. Young turkey vultures have darker-colored heads that change to a lighter red color as the birds get older.
Turkey vultures average 25 inches (63.5 cm) in length, with a wingspan of up to 6 feet (1.8 m). They can weigh as much as 8 pounds (3.6 kg).
Turkey vultures are scavengers, exclusively eating carrion (dead animals). At Cosley Zoo, the turkey vultures are fed fish, rats and quail.
Turkey vultures nest between March and June when the weather is warm. They may nest on the ground or in a tree trunk. Turkey vultures do not spend much time making nests and often find areas of broken sticks or grasses in which to lay their eggs. Females lay only two eggs per nesting period. Both parents incubate the eggs for a total of 38-41 days.
After the chicks hatch, the parents feed them regurgitated food. Young turkey vultures leave the nest after 70-80 days.
Turkey vultures spend most of their time soaring over the land in search of the animal carcasses on which they feed. They roost in large trees or on buildings. These vultures mainly inhabit areas of deciduous forest with adjacent farmland or other open spaces.
Turkey vultures can live approximately 20 years in the wild or in human care.
Turkey vultures can be useful in discovering gas leaks. Vultures are attracted to the smell of rotten meat that is added to the gas. A group of vultures circling an area where a gas pipeline runs can be an indicator that there is a leak. Turkey vultures are also useful for removing dead animal carcasses before they pose a health risk to humans or other animals.