THE TURKEY VULTURE

(Cathartes aura)

Turkey Vulture - by Bill Blurton

One of the easiest to identify large birds in this area, is the Turkey Vulture, which is fairly common throughout North America.

When they are sighted, gliding high on the thermals, they appear to hardly flap their wings at all, as they maximize the currents of warmer air to stay aloft and gain altitude.

The feathers of these birds are brownish-black, and in this picture you can see the distinctive dark and light pattern on the underside of the wings, this is unlike any other large bird in the area, and makes them easy to identify.

These birds have a 6ft wing-span, so they are really large and difficult to miss when they are nearby, although they could be mistaken for an Eagle or other Raptor at a distance.

It is not easy to distinguish between the sexes, however, typically the female is slightly larger than the male.

These birds prefer to breed in out-of-the-way places, usually in heavily wooded areas, building their rough nest in a cavity in a tree, on a rocky ledge or cave.

Turkey Vulture close-up

The white mottled eggs take around 4 - 5 weeks to incubate, with the nestlings taking a further 10 or 11 weeks to become fully fledged and ready to leave the nest.

In this picture, the red head is clearly visible and you can see that it is devoid of feathers, which is an evolutionary adaptation which makes it less likely to be soiled by the meat that the vulture is eating - making the whole process more sanitary.

In this part of Southern Ontario where we live, in Elgin County, we sometimes see these birds flying singly, but more often we observe them in groups of 6 - 16 individuals, as they circle around overhead.

Often, when I observe them, they seem to "wobble" to adjust themselves, and then they continue to glide, as they scan the ground for signs that would indicate that there is a meal to be had nearby.

Turkey Vultures in tree

I took this picture in the summer of 2006 when I saw 5 Turkey Vultures resting in a tree.

The picture is not very clear, but it shows several Turkey Vultures sunning themselves on a dead tree near the village of Iona, close to highway 3, west of St Thomas.

They prefer the meat of herbivorous animals (plant eaters) such as rabbits, squirrels and hares, rather than the flesh of carnivores (meat eaters) such as dogs and foxes.

Turkey Vultures ONLY eat meat that is already dead and do not hunt or kill their own food, so they pose little danger to pets or small children.

They must be very successful in their particular niche, on their own special rung of the food chain ladder, as there are lots of them around!

The best place in this area of Southern Ontario that I know of, is just south of London - at the corner of Scotland Drive and White Oak Road - there are sometimes up to 40 or so of these birds sitting in the trees on the north side of the road.

Turkey Vultures circling

My family always describes the Turkey Vultures as the "Clean-up Crew" as they take care of a wide variety of dead animals and use both their sight and sense of smell to guide them to their food.

Their diet is varied, ranging from the remains of an animal killed by predators, animals that die of natural causes, to animals killed by cars on area roads and includes squirrels, raccoons , rabbits and possums.

Condors & Vultures (World Life Library.)

Until 1994, these Vultures were classified with birds of prey, such as Hawks and Eagles, however, due to recent DNA analysis and other studies on anatomy, physiology, and behavior, these Vultures have been reclassified and placed in the Stork family.

This picture of circling Turkey Vultures was taken in spring 2007 near Eagle, Ontario, and shows six individuals of what was a group of around 12 birds.

Interestingly, a group of Vultures on the ground is known as a "Venue" and Vultures circling in the air are a "Kettle".


Have you seen Turkey Vultures?

We would love to hear about your sighting of Turkey Vultures in Southern Ontario

Remember to make your submission a minimum of 100 - 200 words and tell us when and where you saw the bird, the time of day, and what you observed them doing.

What Other Visitors Have Said

Click below to see contributions from other visitors to this page...

What Type Of Bird? 
It was a large bird with a big wing span, looks like a Turkey / Vulture. I'm 99% sure that what you've got there, is a Turkey Vulture. …

Sighting of Turkey Vulture 
I live in Oakville, Ontario. This morning as I was on my way to the library, I saw what seemed to be a Turkey Vulture. I have seen various Vultures …

Help with Turkey Vulture Problem 
I have Turkey Vultures in my back yard. They have been there for a few years and they are ruining it. They are so dirty and their pee is everywhere. …

Nesting Turkey Vultures in Toronto 
A pair of Turkey Vultures are nesting on one of the lower (layered) roofs of the office building on the SE corner of Sherbourne and Bloor, in Toronto. …

Turkey Vultures in Petro Park 
Hawks have been a fairly common sight along Bronte Creek in Oakville for as long as I can remember, but until recently the only place I'd seen Turkey Vultures …

Turkey Vulture 
My home backs on to the east side of the East Don Ravine, just north of Finch Avenue (Pineway Blvd). Yesterday morning as I opened my bedroom blinds …

Vulture in Brampton 
I awoke to the sun shining and sleep still in my eyes, decided to step outside (7:30am)and noticed a Robin singing for a mate, and one appeared right before …

Turkey Vultures in Aurora and Ottawa 
A couple of weeks ago, K. Mikula wrote to tell us ..... Just spotted a Turkey Vulture 19/3/11 at 3:50 pm flying over the St. Andrews Golf Club in Aurora, …

Turkey Vulture sighting 
Sitting in a doctor's office at Sherbourne and Bloor in Toronto Ontario which is downtown and saw this incredible sight of two Turkey Vultures soaring …

Over Our House 
Two of our readers sent us reports of their Turkey Vulture sightings recently - the first one is from Margaret , who says ..... My husband and I watched …

Vultures and Hawks in Kitchener-Waterloo 
On Tuesday, March 29 2011, I went out around 5:15 to walk my dog and spotted a group of about 10-15 Vultures with red faces or heads flying low. I …

Turkey Vultures Nickel Beach, Port Colborne 
My wife and I take regular walks on Nickel Beach, Port Colbourne, Ontario. This morning, we observed 6 large birds, 2 of them eating a dead fish, near …

We saw a Turkey Vulture 
Travelling to Hagar, Ontario, Hwy 535, we spotted a scary looking large size bird, pink/red head and black body ..... it appeared to be eating roadkill. …

Turkey Vultures on the Niagara Escarpment 
One of our readers sent us this report of his sighting of Turkey Vultures - Sunday May 16, 2010, today my girlfriend and I went for a hike at Woodend. …

Several Turkey Vulture Sightings 
For the past week I have seen several Turkey Vultures right in the city of St Catharines! The first was a group of at least 30 near the St Paul Street …

Black Vulture 
A question was posed the other day "What is this raptor" and it was suggested it might be a Turkey Vulture. The other possibility is a Black Vulture. …

Assorted Vultures across Ontario Not rated yet
In the late spring this year we received several sightings of Turkey Vultures, and you can read them below. April 9 2017, North Pelham, one …

Sighting in Galt, Cambridge on June 10, 2017 Not rated yet
Hi, today, on June 10 2017, at around 11 am, I saw about 6 Turkey Vultures in the yard of my house which is right across from Galt Collegiate …

Six spotted May 30 at Sherbourne & Bloor Streets. Toronto Not rated yet
I've spotted Turkey Vultures perched on this building at Sherbourne and Bloor Streets in Toronto around 5 pm, for just one afternoon in late May …

Turkey Vulture Sighting Not rated yet
We've seen many flocks of Turkey Vultures (up to 20) gliding in the Masonville area in London Ontario on many occasions. In the attached photo …

Turkey Vulture at Port Hope Not rated yet
I saw a Turkey Vulture by the Port Hope, Ontario, water tower today. It was soaring and then perched on a tree branch. The time was six …

Vulture Not rated yet
We are on the Rideau River approximately 25 km south of Ottawa. Around noon today I saw a large black bird land in our front yard. It was about …

Turkey Vultures Gather Not rated yet
October 3, 2016 5:00 pm In LaSalle, Laurier Drive South west of Windsor, Ontario. Gathering of 25-50 birds circling for about 1 - 2 hours.

My Turkey Vulture Not rated yet
I was not sure what the Monster on our lake side lawn was, I got a few photos and came it to look it up. He was on the grass, snacking on …

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Turkey Vulture living in St Thomas Not rated yet
I back onto a ravine and noticed a pair of vultures living in a dead tree about 16 years ago. A couple of years past one of the pair must have died …

Turkey Vultures in Wasaga Beach Not rated yet
We recently received reports of sightings of Turkey Vultures at Wasaga Beach - thank you Corie and Steve for writing to us. Corie said ... My husband …

Turkey Vultures in Etobicoke Not rated yet
Today is Tuesday July 5 2016, at about 9 am today my family and myself were very surprise to see two Vultures flying in front of my building. I live …

A few Turkey Vultures on a roof Not rated yet
I only took photos of a couple of them, but there were a bunch hanging out on a roof just north of Langton area. I was heading north and saw them, took …

Turkey Vultures in Toronto Not rated yet
A group of 8 - 10 Turkey Vultures were circling in Toronto by the St Lawrence Market area on May 18, 2016 between 3 and 3:30 pm. They were circling …

Turkey Vultures across Ontario Not rated yet
Many of our readers have written to tell us about their Vulture sightings in Ontario - some of them are below. In April Jim wrote to say ... I have …

Twenty Turkey Vultures Not rated yet
In Hawksbury, Ontario, on March 24th 2016 at 5:30 pm, a large kettle of Turkey Vultures were seen by Andrew Wrobel myself & my girlfriend Johanne Lalond …

Turkey Vulture Tree Not rated yet
Last weekend hubby and I were in Port Stanley and around dusk I noticed that there were hundreds of Turkey Vultures flying over the cliffs. I and got …

Turkey Vulture at Hollinger Not rated yet
After our church service yesterday, we usually hang out for music and band practice, I always have my camera to take shots of our activities. At around …

Turkey Vulture sighting Not rated yet
I was traveling south on Airport Road just past Mayfield Road in Brampton, Ontario, when I saw what I thought to be a Turkey perched on a fence. I soon …

Newmarket Vulture Not rated yet
On our roof yesterday (mid town), interested in some road kill, while being pestered by a swooping black bird.

Backyard Visitors - Burlington Not rated yet
We had a pair of Turkey Vultures arrive May 4, 2015 around 6:30 pm resting in our cottonwood tree. They stayed long enough for plenty of photos. …

Up Close and Personal with a Turkey Vulture Not rated yet
I was walking along a local riverbank this afternoon taking photos when the winds started to pick up and the rain came down. I decided to cut through …

Turkey Vultures Preying on Pets Not rated yet
March 21, 2015. We live in Olde Stoney Creek, Ontario. A group of at least a dozen of these vultures spend the day on the roof of the apartment building …

Spending some time with the Gang Not rated yet
I'm new to this site, but here's a pic we took just literally outside Ingersoll east town limits August 20, 2014. Amazed there are so many turkey buzzards …

Various Turkey Vultures Not rated yet
Michelle from Brampton wrote to say ..... A Turkey Vulture flew right in front of my car (as I was driving) and landed under the maple tree beside the …

Turkey Vultures on Parade Not rated yet
Margau from Midland wrote to tell us ..... Outside our cottage on Georgian Bay in the township of Tiny, Ontario, at 4.45 pm a Turkey Vulture circled a …

A Kettle of Turkey Vultures in Pakenham, Ontario. Not rated yet
July 4th, 2014 - After a long country drive, and ending up in Pakenham, Ontario, my wife and I pulled into "Five Span Bridges Park" in Pakenham, in order …

Turkey Vulture sightings Not rated yet
July 2 2014 - a reader wrote to tell us ..... I had the roofers fixing my roof this morning, so I took out my camera with my 500 mm lens and just hung …

Turkey Vulture sighting Not rated yet
Observed a large black bird on June 29th 2014 in Grand Valley, Ontario, eating a small animal in our backyard at 12:30 pm. It had a reddish head and …

Thought it was a large elongated rooster on the loose Not rated yet
I was driving along the Caisterville Road around 1 pm on June 25 2014, just 1/2 kilometre before reaching Caisterville, Ontario (a village in the Niagara/Lake …

Four flying around near horses in field Not rated yet
We looked outside to spot the horses all looking in the same direction. We could see something large and dark in that direction. Upon checking it …

Six of them in our neighbours back yard Not rated yet
The vultures are at Highbury Ave N, which surprises me, I always thought they would be found in a more forested area, or along highways. They tend …

It was not a pretty bird Not rated yet
Saturday November 16th 2013, Powerline Road (almost at Smokey Hollow), time of day 11:00 am. Two very large birds were spotted circling, then one came …

Turkey Vultures in Thornhill Not rated yet
This morning around 8:30 am, I dropped my two boys off at school and as I was going towards Yonge Street and Clarke Ave, about a mile north of Steeles, …

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Turkey Vulture Not rated yet
I live in St. Catharines, Ontario, and was in the Malcolmson Conservation Area (Park) on Thursday April 4th, 2013 at approx 10:00am. The sun was shining …

Turkey Vultures around Southern Ontario Not rated yet
I saw a group of 20-30 Turkey Vultures flying over Hamilton, Ontario, in March, what a beautiful sight! A reader from Grey County wrote to tell us ..... …

Sunbathing Turkey Vultures Not rated yet
I visit Nelles Beach in Grimsby, Ontario, almost every day. On warm sunny mornings a flock of about 35 Vultures visits the local beach. Thank …

Andrew Not rated yet
Over the last few weeks, I've seen two groups of 7 - 10 birds meandering westward while sitting in my 33rd floor office. They fly at a high altitude …

Turkey Vultures Not rated yet
Tuesday October 16 2012 6:30 pm Huron Heights subdivision London Ontario. I observed a large flock of Turkey Vulture at least 30 birds circling …

Vultures spotted at Lakeview Park Oshawa Not rated yet
Today, while basking in the beautiful weather we have been having here in Ontario this spring, I was surprised to spot an a group of 10 to 12 Vultures …

Turkey Vulture Not rated yet
I'm at Charleston Lake, Ontario (near Brockville) Walking on our cottage road in August, I saw a large black bird with a red head, picking at some "road …

Turkey Vulture Not rated yet
I live in Victoria Harbour, Ontario, and to be honest although there's a lot of land, I'm usually not lucky enough to see any wild animals. However, …

Turkey Vultures, we think Not rated yet
This morning while making my son's lunch, I looked out of the kitchen window and saw at least six large birds in our backyard. I called out to my son to …

First Turkey Vulture Not rated yet
The Red Tail Hawks are coming back for the season - some other birds of prey are on the move, but you know that most of the other animals are waking up …

Turkey Vulture Roost Not rated yet
One of our neighbours has a large fir tree in their back yard, and every Summer it's home to a dozen or more Turkey Vultures . They roost in it overnight, …

Turkey Vltures at Port Stanley, Lake Erie Not rated yet
Saw a bunch of these guys on the beach in Port Stanley and got this shot - one of my favorites!! Thanks for another lovely picture, Lisa!

Turkey Vulture at Belwood Lake Not rated yet
My son and I spotted what was undoubtedly a Turkey Vulture , several times on the dock at our cottage on Belwood Lake (near Fergus) during the second …

Turkey Vulture Not rated yet
Barbara from Innisfil, Ontario, sent us this report of her Turkey Vulture sighting, she says - We live in the Innisfil area. While we were heading …

Turkey Vulture, June 7th and 9th, 2010 Not rated yet
Debra, one of our readers from north of Scarborough, sent us this report - Lake Scugog, West shore of Washburn Island, there seems to be just one of them …

Turkey Vulture June 2010 Not rated yet
Anna, one of our readers from Bala, Ontario, sent us this report from her Kayaking trip - June 3 and June 4, 2010. Byng Inlet, Ontario. Two instances. …

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Hawk Cliff, near Port Stanley, Ontario
This is one of the top places in Ontario to observe raptor migrations. In October 2005 over 3,000 Turkey Vultures were spotted in one day! The following day 62 Bald Eagles were sighted there also.

The Turkey Vulture Society Website
A great source of information for anyone interested in finding out more about these intelligent and fascinating birds, there are lots of questions and answers for the curious!

Bird-Info.com
Information on identifying birds in Ontario and the rest of North America, including the Turkey Vulture and many more

EEK! Environmental Education for Kids
This is an information site for children which gives clear, easy to understand info about fish, birds, reptiles and insects in North America

Picture of Turkey Vulture in flight is courtesy of Bill Blurton

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