Turkey Vultures

You may have already noticed the large black birds soaring above the countryside with upraised wings. These amazing birds are Turkey Vultures- sometimes called "buzzards." Vultures play an important ecological role in cleaning up and recycling animals, including road kill. Turkey Vultures have amazing adaptations for their role, including featherless red heads resembling the head of a turkey, hence the name. Vultures have strong hooked beaks for tearing apart carcasses, but unlike hawks and eagles, vultures have weak feet because they do not actually kill their food. Watch these amazing flyers soar gracefully, rarely flapping their wings. Vultures need the updrafts or "thermals" to soar on, so don't expect to see flying vultures until midmorning when the sun heats up the ground and atmosphere. Similarly, pelicans use thermals along the beach to soar up to the clouds, then slow drift back down. Vultures can be easily identified in flight because, unlike eagles, they soar with their wings in a "V" with wing tips above the horizontal. Although not pretty to view like songbirds, vultures play a key role as nature's garbage men.