These birds are huge! The Turkey Vulture has a wing span of up to 6 feet and can weigh up to 5 lbs. It’s easy to spot because it has a red featherless head. This scavenger flies low to detect the gasses of decay. They usually live to about 21 years. They are well known for rarely flapping their wings instead relying on air currents to keep them circling.
Like storks, the Turkey Vulture often defecates on its own legs, using the evaporation of the water in the feces or urine to cool itself. It rarely, if ever, kills prey itself. The Turkey Vulture can be seen along roadsides feeding on road kill, or near bodies of water feeding on washed-up fish. They avoid carcasses that have reached the point of putrefaction. These birds roost in large community groups of several hundred on leafless trees (just like in cartoons) or on microwave towers. They break away to forage for food independently during the day.
They use caves during the breeding season to lay their eggs.
There is little or no construction of a nest; eggs are laid on a bare surface. Females generally lay two eggs. Both parents incubate, and the young hatch after 30 to 40 days. Chicks are helpless at birth. Both adults feed the chicks by regurgitating food for them, and care for them for about 10 weeks until the chicks are able to fledge. When adults are threatened while nesting they may flee, or they may regurgitate on the intruder, or even feign death. Family groups remain together until the fall.