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Turkey Vulture

Scientific Name:  Cathartes aura  


Species Ambassadors:

This beautiful girl was one of two sisters that were born in 1978 and hand raised at the Potter Park Zoo. They were later transferred to Blandford Nature Center from the Kellogg Bird Sanctuary in 1996.  Since the two were hand raised, they are not afraid of people and depend on us to feed and take care of them. They would not know how to get their own food in the wild or know to avoid humans and predators. In 2013, one sister passed away due to   old age. 

Status of Turkey Vultures in Michigan

Turkey Vultures are very common throughout Michigan from spring up until the late fall when they migrate south to warmer areas.


They will hiss through their nose when they are upset. 

Click below to hear Turkey Vultures!

Turkey Vulture Hissing:


They can be seen flying above open country, shorelines, and roads with their wings held in a V-shape. They are not common in forested areas.


Turkey Vultures eat carrion (dead animals). They are one of the few bird species to have a sense of smell, which they use to find their stinky food.

The Role of Turkey Vultures in Our Ecosystem

Turkey Vultures have a very important role in our ecosystems.  They have a unique digestive system that actually kills the bacteria and diseases on the carrion that they ingest.  These vultures clean up dead animals and prevent the spread of disease and harmful bacteria. 

Threats to Turkey Vultures

Currently, there are no threats to populations of this species.  Their numbers have actually been increasing since the 1980’s.  They are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, and it is illegal to kill Turkey Vultures in the United States.

Interesting Facts

-Turkey Vultures will vomit up their food when threatened by a predator. The vomited food may   distract the predator and make the vultures lighter, making it easier to fly away to safety.

-Their scientific name, Cathartes aura, actually means “golden purifier” or “purifying breeze.”

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