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All About the Turkey Vulture Bird

Turkey vultures are an important part of their ecosystem as they help to keep it clean by eating road kill and other dead animals. Turkey vultures are not picky eaters and will often eat carrion that other animals will not eat. Many people find turkey vultures ugly and repulsive; however, like all animals, they are beautiful in their own way and are an important part of their environment.

Turkey vultures are a species of new-world vulture, which can be found throughout North America, South America and the Caribbean. There are five sub-species of Turkey vulture: the Western turkey vulture, the Eastern turkey vulture, the Chilean turkey vulture, the Southern turkey vulture, and the Turkey vulture. Chilean and Southern turkey vultures are found in South America. Eastern turkey vultures and Turkey vultures are found in Central and North America, and Western turkey vultures are found in the United States and Southern Canada.

Despite their name, turkey vultures are not related to the old-world vultures that are located in Africa and South America. Turkey vultures come from a completely different family than old-world vultures do, and have different ancestors. Turkey vultures are related to storks, while old-world vultures are related to hawks and falcons. Another difference between Turkey vultures and old-world vultures is their feet; Turkey vultures have blunt talons made for walking, while old-world vultures have sharp curved talons made for attacking.

Turkey vultures have moderately broad wings that help lift them into the air. Most of their feathers are a dark brown-black, but they do have some small dark silver feathers along the edge and underside of their wings. Turkey vultures have bald heads and necks; their head and neck are bald for two reasons, communication and hygiene. Having no feathers on their head and neck helps to keep the bird cleaner when it eats, and allows the bird to communicate its emotional state to other Turkey vultures; their neck and head flushes different shades of red to show how it is feeling. Turkey vultures have a wingspan of 63-72 inches; weigh 2-6 pounds and measure 24-32 inches long; size varies slightly per species and sex. Turkey vultures from North America are larger and heavier than ones from Central or South America are. Turkey vultures differ from most birds, as they do not have a syrinx so are unable to sing or make other common bird sounds; they can only make hissing and grunting sounds. Turkey vultures live longer than most wild birds, with most living around 20-25 years in the wild and around 25-30 years in captivity.

Turkey vultures are carnivores that normally eat carrion. They have a very acute sense of smell and can smell carrion up to 100 kilometres away. Turkey vultures prefer large carrion like deer or cattle, but will eat any carrion they find. They have sharp beaks that allow them to rip through the carrion’s tough hide and flesh. Starving turkey vultures will occasionally kill small animals for food, but it is rare, as they are generally carrion eaters. If forced to kill live prey, they will pick up the small animal and then drop it from a high altitude to kill it.

Turkey vultures are not incredibly beautiful birds, but they are an extremely important part of their ecosystem, and the world would certanly be less without them. 

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