Western Turkey Vulture
Cathartes aura aura
Habitat: open country and woodlands
Range: Southern Canada to South America
Natural Diet: carrion occasionally small mammals, birds, and reptiles
Status In The Wild: Common (Least Concern)
Turkey vultures have a highly developed sense of smell and are among the very few birds that use this sense to locate food. Vultures are uniquely adapted to eating carrion. Their featherless head helps them keep clean as they stick their heads inside a carcass to feed. They will soar for miles, seldom flapping their wings, and climb on thermals - upward moving warm air. Much of the water they require is obtained from the moisture in their food. Turkey vultures are basically silent birds because they are missing a voice box, or syrinx. When agitated they will hiss and grunt. Vultures are protected from disease associated with decaying animals because of a sophisticated immune system.