Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura)

A turkey vulture takes off from a farm field near Sangchris Lake State Park in Sangamon County.

Turkey vultures are large soaring birds that many people swear must be eagles.

At a distance, one can tell a turkey vulture because is soars with few wing flaps and holds its wings in a slight "V" position. Eagles soar with wings flat and

level. Large black birds that flap continuously are probably crows.

Turkey vultures are grouped in with birds of prey, but are more closely related to herons and storks.

Turkey vultures have no feathers on their heads, and it's a good thing too. Considering that they eat carrion, dining can be a pretty messy business for them.
Young turkey vultures have a black head and they are often misidentified as black vultures. Black vultures have white tips at the end of their wings and flap their wings more often. They are uncommon in Illinois and are more likely to be seen in the extreme southern part of the state.
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Quick Facts about turkey vultures:


Mostly carrion (birds and animals that are already dead).


Becoming more numerous in central Illinois.

Where do we see them?

Turkey vultures are often seen soaring in groups above bluffs and wooded areas.

Nesting Habits:

They nest in hollow trees, old building and other cavities. They lay one to two eggs. Be careful if you find a nest. They will defend themselves by throwing up. The smell is a definite deterrent.