Turkey vulture (Cathartes aura)
There are two turkey vultures at the Seneca Park Zoo. Both arrived at the Zoo in 2011. The turkey vulture's body feathers are mostly brownish-black, but the flight feathers on the wings appear to be silver-gray beneath, contrasting with the darker wing linings.The adult's head is small in proportion to its body and is red in color with few to no feathers. It also has a relatively short, hooked, ivory-colored beak.
Status in the wild
International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List status: Least concern. This bird is protected by international Migratory Bird treaties and its numbers are healthy. It is estimated that turkey vulture populations have grown by 1.79 % in recent years.
The turkey vulture is by far the most widespread of the new world vultures. It can be found throughout the continental United States, north into Canada along the east and west coasts and south into Central and South America.The turkey vulture is widespread over open country, subtropical forests, shrublands, deserts and foothills. It is also found in pastures, grasslands and wetlands. It is most commonly found in relatively open areaswhich provide nearby woods for nesting and it generally avoids heavily forested areas.
The turkey vulture feeds primarily on a wide variety of carrion, from small mammals to large grazers, preferring those recently dead. It may feed on plant matter, shoreline vegetation, pumpkin and other crops, live insects and other invertebrates.
- There is minimal sexual dimorphism in the turkey vulture; sexes are identical in plumage and incoloration, although the female is slightly larger.
- Courtship rituals of the turkey vulture involve several individuals gathering in a circle, where they perform hopping movements around the perimeter of the circle with wings partially spread.
- Like other vultures, the turkey vulture plays an important role in the ecosystem by disposing of carrion which would otherwise be a breeding ground for disease.