Daily Bird of Prey Feast: Turkey Vulture

0 Comments 26 April 2012

Turkey vultures mean business goddamit. They serve a purpose. A cleansing purpose.

Designed for soaring flight, turkey vultures rule the skies of Big Bend National Park in southwestern Texas from March through early October. With a nearly six-foot wing span and a light body weight turkey vultures can soar over columns of warm air to heights of almost 5,000 feet and travel up to 40 miles per hour, just chilling, with almost no flapping of the wings.

They look horrifying up close – red skinned head, bare legs, and their under carriage is often discolored because they poop on themselves for cooling (and not the Miles Davis type of cool).

Turkey vultures are an anomaly of design and natural selection. Because their talons are basically useless if they’re threatened while nesting or roosting they will either fall over and play dead or just throw up – vomiting only because the stench is so foul it drives other critters away. I actually know someone on The Shade staff that does the same type of thing at parties (I’m looking at you T.W.)

They are lazy as shit. In the evening a turkey vulture’s body temperature drops to conserve energy. In the morning, spreading it’s wings to the sun’s heat brings the body temperature back up quickly and allows the bird to prepare for flight. On rainy or cloudy, cool days, vultures seldom take to the air preferring the day time programming on CBS.

The word vulture comes from the greek word meaning “cleanser,” because they literally clean house. They patrol the air, finding and ridding the land of carcasses that, if left on the ground, could become harbors of disease. In their own way they were the first CDC. Ha!


The second largest flying animal ever documented on the planet was found in Big Bend National Park. Fossilized remains of the pterosaur Quetzalcoatlus northropi, with a wingspan of 35 feet, were first found in the park in 1971.

- who has written 512 posts on The Shade.

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