All across the Americas flies one of the worlds largest, and most interesting avian creatures: The Turkey Vulture. Given it’s name for it’s turkey-like head, this bird has a look you won’t soon forget.
These birds enjoy the fine cuisine known as carrion (recently dead animals) and because they are always sticking their heads into rotting carcasses, they are almost completely bald. The lack of feathers ensures that their head stays clear of any rotten meat after a feast and is the reason for that distinct feature.
While we can all agree that Turkey Vultures have a unique appearance, there are several interesting things you may not know about them. From their volatile vomit to their incredible method of flight, here are some interesting facts that you need to know.
Using Thermals to Fly
Because of their large size, it can be difficult for a turkey vulture to flap it’s wings repeatedly. Instead, it utilizes it’s long wingspan (usually around 6 feet!) and warm pockets of air to rise high into the sky. From there it’s smooth gliding to it’s next meal.
Gross, but Effective
One of the well know facts about any type of vulture is that they are gross! It makes sense right? You don’t go around sticking your face in dead things all day and not build such a reputation. In truth, it actually gets worse…
Other Gross Things Turkey Vulture Do:
- Nose Picking – Take a good look at the photo above, notice that hole through the vulture’s nose? Sometimes food can get stuck in there. The solution? The Turkey Vulture has long talons perfect for reaching in and dislodging any unwanted material.
Acid Vomit – The stomach of these vultures is incredibly acidic. So much so that it measures near a zero on the pH scale. This means that their stomachs are more acidic than battery acid! As if that isn’t enough, they will sometimes vomit this acid out, though the reason is debated. Many believe they do it to deter predators, others think that this only happens when they eat too much.
They Soil Themselves. To be more specific, they go to the bathroom on their own legs… on purpose! Why? To regulate their body temperature. Unlike humans, Turkey Vultures can not sweat. Instead, they defecate on their legs to perform a similar function to sweat. Another possible benefit is that the acid (as mentioned above) is still strong after digestion and can help disinfect their legs from harmful bacteria.