The Whisker Chronicles

Whiskers are also known as vibrissa, from the latin vibrare "to vibrate". Vibrissa are the specialized hairs on mammals and the bristlelike feathers near the mouths of many birds. Their resonant design is symbolic of the energies, good and bad, that are reverberating throughout the natural world. Every living thing is connected and, by birthright, deserves to exist.

Turkey Vulture


Photo from the Creative Commons

Scientific Name:  Cathartes aura

The word vulture comes from the Latin vellere, which means to pluck or tear. Cathartes aura means either “golden purifier” or “purifying breeze,” quite a poetic reference to their ecological value as scavengers. 

Where Turkey Vultures Live:   

Roadsides, countryside, landfills, trash heaps, and construction sites, mostly as year-round residents in the northeast United States southward to North Carolina through Louisiana. Western turkey vultures migrate in large numbers through Central America as far as Venezuela, Colombia, and Ecuador.


What Turkey Vultures Eat:  

Freshly dead mammals mostly but also fresh carrion of reptiles, other birds, amphibians, fish, and invertebrates. Unlike Black Vultures, Turkey Vultures almost never attack living prey. 

How Long Turkey Vultures Live:  up to 20 years

Why Turkey Vultures are Awesome:  

They are capable of plucking the softest parts of carrion and are even known to leave aside the scent glands of dead skunks. Vultures have incredible immune systems that allow them to eat a diet of decaying animal flesh without contracting botulism, anthrax, cholera, or salmonella.

Photo from the Creative Commons

Photo from the Creative Commons

Conservation of Turkey Vultures:   

Turkey Vulture populations have been increasing in across North America since the 1980s but had been threatened by the pesticide DDT.  Birds that are exposed to DDT have thin eggshells that easily crack, which causes their chicks to die before incubation is complete.

Now Turkey Vultures are one of the most common birds of prey in North America. But they can fall victim to poisons or lead in dead animals, which ends up in carcasses or gut piles left by hunters. The vultures eat the shot and obtain lead poisoning. Other threats include trapping and killing due to fears that vultures spread disease, but they actually reduce the spread of disease.

Watch this short video clip of a Turkey Vulture to learn more facts about this valuable bird that keeps our ecosystems sanitized.  Thank goodness for the animals that are scavengers! 

One comment on “Turkey Vulture

  1. Maymie Higgins
    March 19, 2014

    A reddit reader, kaybeesee, has taken some fantastic photos of turkey vultures and black vultures.


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This entry was posted on March 18, 2014 by in Birds, Maymie Higgins, Ornithology, Vultures, Wildlife and tagged , , .
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