Ciconiiformes (storks and relatives)
Cathartidae (new world vultures)
HABITAT AND RANGE
Turkey vultures are found from southern Canada, through the United States, and throughout South America. These vultures mainly inhabit areas of deciduous forest and adjacent farmland or other open areas. They are rarely found in humid tropical areas.
Turkey vultures have very small heads in comparison to their body size. The head and neck is reddish colored and bald except a thin layer of down. This is an adaptation to carrion consuming lifestyle to prevent spread of disease. The rest of the body is mostly black except for the silvery white ventral surface of the wings. Wingspan can reach 6 feet. Their talons are relatively week and are used for moving rather than grasping.
True to the vulture name, turkey vultures spend their day soaring at high altitudes using their keen eyesight and very keen nose (unusual in birds) in search of rotting carrion. They also keep a lookout for other vultures descending into an area signaling that they have found food. This behavior leads to the classical congregation of a flock of vultures over a carcass.
REPRODUCTION AND LIFESPAN
The annual nesting period for Cathartes aura takes place during warmer weather. Locations for this are usually found simply upon the ground under the protection of camouflage, but can sometimes be found in caves. Adult turkey vultures lay only 2 eggs during the nesting period. The longest recorded lifespan of a turkey vulture was 16 years, 10 months.
Turkey vultures are very elusive by nature and therefore little is known about their lifestyle tendencies. The exterior nose of a turkey vulture is large and the two nostrils are connected above the beak allowing a large amount of air (and therefore scents) to enter the nose.