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Canada's Species   Birds

Turkey Vulture

Cathartes aura

This bird is easily recognized from a distance: look for the spiralling soar and the V-shaped wing pattern. At close range, the dark plumage and strange, naked red head of this bird make it impossible to mistake. Turkey vultures are commonly found nearby steep cliffs. Not only do cliffs provide quality nesting habitat, but also produce the thermal currents that this bird exploits for flight. This species is the ultimate scavenger in agricultural and forested areas, feeding mainly on roadkill and other dead animals. Other unusual feeding habits have been recorded. A turkey vulture was once observed forcing nestling great blue herons to regurgitate their last meal - which it then fed to its own chicks! The turkey vulture has expanded its range during the past 20 years. Although the reasons for the population expansion remain uncertain, the recent warming of northeastern North America's climate, the clearing of land, increased levels of roadkill, and loss of habitat in the southern part of this species' range have been offered as possible explanations.

Map of Turkey Vulture in Canada
Distribution of Turkey Vulture in Canada

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