-Turkey vultures are not true raptors. The term 'raptor' refers to feet that grasp prey, specifically referring to those birds of prey that have strong grasping feet they use to capture and kill prey. Turkey vultures are more closely related to storks than raptors, and have skinny legs and pretty weak feet. They also tend to be pink in color.
-Turkey vultures will 'poop' on their feet. The 'poop' is actually liquid urea that serves the double purpose of cooling them down as it evaporates and also kills bacteria they might have picked up from their food.
-Turkey vultures are one of the few birds that have a truly sensational sense of smell. They use this to help them locate food items along with very good vision. Their olfactory center is bigger than any other bird, and has been compared to that of a T-rex, leading to speculation that the lizard king may have relied on carrion as well as hunting.
-Turkey vultures don't have the avian equivalent of vocal chords, so have to rely on hissing and grunting sounds to communicate vocally.
-Vomiting is a multi-purpose defensive measure for turkey vultures. It lightens them so they can fly more easily to escape. There's a chance anything coming after them will attempt to eat the food they've gotten rid of instead of them. And they have incredibly high acid content that makes getting hit with the contents very unpleasant besides what they eat.
-Regurgitating food is also how they have to feed their offspring because their super weak feet aren't capable of carrying food back to the nest.
-Turkey vultures are capable of eating animals who have many diseases, including rabies, without developing the disease themselves. This is largely because of their incredibly strong stomach acid and methods of keeping themselves clean after eating.
-Turkey vultures are highly social. They often roost in large groups in the same tree at night every night along with flying and feeding together. They are also generally glad to share a carcass with other carrion eaters, though this is generally to take advantage of those with stronger jaws exposing harder to access parts of the carcass.
-Turkey vultures flying in circles are actually riding thermals up in the air, not circling prey. This is because they approach the maximum size their wing shape can support in flight, even with the extra stabilizing fingerlike feathers on their wings. In fact, one of the ways to most easily tell the difference between a vulture and any other bird of prey in flight is the fact they tend to wobble while in flight. Using hot rising air allows them to save energy and fly more steadily with less effort while locating food.
-The scientific name for turkey vultures, Cathartes
aura, means cleansing breeze.The genus, Cathartes
, by itself means purifier. Both refer to the necessary role carrion birds play in their ecosystems.
-Turkey vultures have bald heads to reduce the chance of bacteria or parasites from their food sticking to them and making them ill. They have long naked legs for a similar reason.
-Turkey vultures love to sunbath, and will stand in the sun with wings spread in the morning. This helps them raise their body temperature without expending as much energy before they're able to eat in the mornings.
-Turkey vultures don't nest so much as find difficult to reach and private holes in things to lay their eggs and raise their offspring in.