|Conservation status||Thought to have declined during 20th century in parts of North America, but current populations apparently stable.|
|Family||New World Vultures|
|Habitat||Widespread over open country, woods, deserts, foothills. Most common over open or semi-open country, especially within a few miles of rocky or wooded areas providing secure nesting sites. Generally avoids densely forested regions. Unlike Black Vulture, regularly forages over small offshore islands.|
Seeks carrion by soaring over open or partly wooded country, watching the ground and watching the actions of other scavengers. Can also locate some carrion by odor: Unlike most birds, has a well-developed sense of smell.
2, sometimes 1, rarely 3. Whitish, blotched with brown and lavender. Incubation is by both parents, usually 34-41 days. Young: One parent remains with young much of time at first. Both parents feed young, by regurgitation. If young are approached in nest, they defend themselves by hissing and regurgitating. Age of young at first flight about 9-10 weeks.
One parent remains with young much of time at first. Both parents feed young, by regurgitation. If young are approached in nest, they defend themselves by hissing and regurgitating. Age of young at first flight about 9-10 weeks.
Mostly carrion. Feeds mainly on dead animals, preferring those recently dead (that is, relatively fresh carrion). Occasionally feeds on decaying vegetable matter, live insects, or live fish in drying-up ponds.
As a part of pair formation, several birds gather in circle on ground, and perform ritualized hopping movements around perimeter of circle with wings partly spread. In the air, one bird may closely follow another, the two birds flapping and diving. Nest sites are in sheltered areas, such as inside hollow trees or logs, in crevices in cliffs, under rocks, in caves, inside dense thickets, or in old buildings. Little or no nest built; eggs laid on debris or on flat bottom of nest site.
Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
Learn more about these drawings.
Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds
Download Our Bird Guide App
Present year-round in much of southern United States, but northern birds migrate long distances, some reaching South America. Migrates in flocks, and may travel long distances without feeding.
- All Seasons - Common
- All Seasons - Uncommon
- Breeding - Common
- Breeding - Uncommon
- Winter - Common
- Winter - Uncommon
- Migration - Common
- Migration - Uncommon
See a fully interactive migration map for this species on the Bird Migration Explorer.Learn more
Songs and CallsUsually silent; hisses or grunts when feeding or at nest.
Learn more about this sound collection.
How Climate Change Will Reshape the Range of the Turkey Vulture
Audubon’s scientists have used 140 million bird observations and sophisticated climate models to project how climate change will affect this bird’s range in the future.
Zoom in to see how this species’s current range will shift, expand, and contract under increased global temperatures.
Climate threats facing the Turkey Vulture
Choose a temperature scenario below to see which threats will affect this species as warming increases. The same climate change-driven threats that put birds at risk will affect other wildlife and people, too.