Beak of the Week: Getting to Know the Turkey Vulture


This week’s bird is the turkey vulture. These creepy dudes have huge nostrils that allow them to smell rotting, decaying carcasses from over a mile away. From below, their silhouettes against the sky can be hard to distinguish from other raptors, but vultures are marked by their V-shaped wings (think “V” for vulture).  They also have separated, finger-like feathers at the wingtips. Vultures are known for their “circling,” which comes from them lazily spreading their wings and allowing thermals (warm pockets of air) to push them high enough for a vantage point, from which they glide down to food. The turkey vulture’s bright red, bald head allows it to reach into carcasses for meals without collecting potentially harmful bacteria. Likewise, their stomachs are very acidic so they can digest all the stuff people and most birds would get sick from. While other vultures occasionally attack and kill their own prey, turkey vultures are almost solely scavengers. Learn more about the turkey vulture at

Editor’s Note: Beak of the Week is a new feature highlighting area fowl that will be included in each Thursday edition.