Cathartes aura - (Linnaeus, 1758)
Turkey Vulture
Other English Common Names: turkey vulture
Other Common Names: Urubu-Cabeça-Vermelha
Taxonomic Status: Accepted
Related ITIS Name(s): Cathartes aura (Linnaeus, 1758) (TSN 175265)
French Common Names: urubu à tête rouge
Spanish Common Names: Zopilote Aura, Jote Cabeza Colorada, Zamuro Cabeci
Unique Identifier: ELEMENT_GLOBAL.2.103261
Element Code: ABNKA02010
Informal Taxonomy: Animals, Vertebrates - Birds - Other Birds
Image 7497

© Larry Master

 
Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family Genus
Animalia Craniata Aves Cathartiformes Cathartidae Cathartes
Genus Size: B - Very small genus (2-5 species)
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Concept Reference
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Concept Reference: American Ornithologists' Union (AOU). 1998. Check-list of North American birds. Seventh edition. American Ornithologists' Union, Washington, D.C. [as modified by subsequent supplements and corrections published in The Auk]. Also available online: http://www.aou.org/.
Concept Reference Code: B98AOU01NAUS
Name Used in Concept Reference: Cathartes aura
Taxonomic Comments: Transferred to Ciconiiformes (AOU 1998) but is now tentatively returned to the order Falconiformes after re-evaluation of the reasons for the earlier change. Further, some genetic studies (Cracraft et al. 2004, Fain and Houde 2004, Ericson et al. 2006) have shown that the New World vultures are not closely related to the storks, although their precise phylogenetic relationship to the Falconiformes is yet undetermined (AOU 2007).
Conservation Status
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NatureServe Status

Global Status: G5
Global Status Last Reviewed: 07Apr2016
Global Status Last Changed: 22Nov1996
Ranking Methodology Used: Ranked by inspection
Rounded Global Status: G5 - Secure
Nation: United States
National Status: N5B,N5N (05Jan1997)
Nation: Canada
National Status: N5B,N5M (29Jan2018)

U.S. & Canada State/Province Status
Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.
United States Alabama (S5), Arizona (S5), Arkansas (S4), California (SNR), Colorado (S4B), Connecticut (S5B), Delaware (S5B), District of Columbia (S3N), Florida (SNR), Georgia (S5), Idaho (S5B), Illinois (S5), Indiana (S1N,S4B), Iowa (S4B,S5N), Kansas (S4B), Kentucky (S4S5B), Louisiana (S5), Maine (S4B), Maryland (S5B,S5N), Massachusetts (S4B,S5M), Michigan (S5), Minnesota (SNRB), Mississippi (S4B), Missouri (SNRB,SNRN), Montana (S4B), Navajo Nation (S5B), Nebraska (S4), Nevada (S5B), New Hampshire (S4B), New Jersey (S4B,S4N), New Mexico (S5B,S5N), New York (S4B), North Carolina (S5B,S5N), North Dakota (S4), Ohio (S5), Oklahoma (S5), Oregon (S5), Pennsylvania (S5B,S4N), Rhode Island (S2B,S2N), South Carolina (SNR), South Dakota (S5B), Tennessee (S5B), Texas (S5B), Utah (S3?B), Vermont (S3S4B), Virginia (S4), Washington (S4B), West Virginia (S5B,S5N), Wisconsin (S4B), Wyoming (S4?B)
Canada Alberta (S2S3B), British Columbia (S4), Manitoba (S4S5B), New Brunswick (S3B,S3M), Nova Scotia (S2S3B), Ontario (S5B), Quebec (S4), Saskatchewan (S2S3B,S2M,S2N)

Other Statuses

IUCN Red List Category: LC - Least concern

NatureServe Global Conservation Status Factors

Range Extent: >2,500,000 square km (greater than 1,000,000 square miles)
Range Extent Comments: BREEDS: southern British Columbia to southern Manitoba and New England, south through U.S. and Middle America to South America and Greater Antilles (introduced in Puerto Rico). Recently has expanded range in the northeastern U.S. and southeastern Canada. NORTHERN WINTER: mainly from northern California, Arizona, Nebraska, Ohio Valley, and Maryland south. Winter concentrations occur Texas, Florida, and along the Wabash River in Indiana (Root 1988).

Population Size: >1,000,000 individuals
Population Size Comments: Estimated number of breeding pairs in Canada was 5000-20,000 in the early 1990s (Kirk et al. 1995).

Overall Threat Impact Comments: According to Ehrlich et al. (1992), jeopardized by widespread eggshell thinning resulting from ingestion of contaminated food.

Short-term Trend: Relatively Stable (<=10% change)
Short-term Trend Comments: Apparently declining in some areas (e.g., northern Florida, southern Atlantic coast of U.S., Arizona, prairie of Canada, parts of Mexico) in the early 1980s (Wilbur 1983). Increased throughout Canada, 1966-1991 (Kirk et al. 1995).

Other NatureServe Conservation Status Information

Distribution
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Global Range: (>2,500,000 square km (greater than 1,000,000 square miles)) BREEDS: southern British Columbia to southern Manitoba and New England, south through U.S. and Middle America to South America and Greater Antilles (introduced in Puerto Rico). Recently has expanded range in the northeastern U.S. and southeastern Canada. NORTHERN WINTER: mainly from northern California, Arizona, Nebraska, Ohio Valley, and Maryland south. Winter concentrations occur Texas, Florida, and along the Wabash River in Indiana (Root 1988).

U.S. States and Canadian Provinces

Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.
Color legend for Distribution Map
NOTE: The maps for birds represent the breeding status by state and province. In some jurisdictions, the subnational statuses for common species have not been assessed and the status is shown as not-assessed (SNR). In some jurisdictions, the subnational status refers to the status as a non-breeder; these errors will be corrected in future versions of these maps. A species is not shown in a jurisdiction if it is not known to breed in the jurisdiction or if it occurs only accidentally or casually in the jurisdiction. Thus, the species may occur in a jurisdiction as a seasonal non-breeding resident or as a migratory transient but this will not be indicated on these maps. See other maps on this web site that depict the Western Hemisphere ranges of these species at all seasons of the year.
Endemism: occurs (regularly, as a native taxon) in multiple nations

U.S. & Canada State/Province Distribution
United States AL, AR, AZ, CA, CO, CT, DC, DE, FL, GA, IA, ID, IL, IN, KS, KY, LA, MA, MD, ME, MI, MN, MO, MS, MT, NC, ND, NE, NH, NJ, NM, NN, NV, NY, OH, OK, OR, PA, RI, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT, VA, VT, WA, WI, WV, WY
Canada AB, BC, MB, NB, NS, ON, QC, SK

Range Map
Note: Range depicted for New World only. The scale of the maps may cause narrow coastal ranges or ranges on small islands not to appear. Not all vagrant or small disjunct occurrences are depicted. For migratory birds, some individuals occur outside of the passage migrant range depicted. For information on how to obtain shapefiles of species ranges see our Species Mapping pages at www.natureserve.org/conservation-tools/data-maps-tools.

Range Map Compilers: NatureServe, 2002; WILDSPACETM 2002; WWF-US, 2000; WWF-US, 2000;


U.S. Distribution by County Help
State County Name (FIPS Code)
AZ Coconino (04005), Maricopa (04013), Pima (04019)
ID Ada (16001), Adams (16003), Bannock (16005), Bear Lake (16007), Benewah (16009), Bingham (16011), Blaine (16013), Boise (16015), Bonner (16017), Bonneville (16019), Boundary (16021), Butte (16023), Camas (16025), Canyon (16027), Caribou (16029), Cassia (16031), Clark (16033), Clearwater (16035), Custer (16037), Elmore (16039), Franklin (16041), Fremont (16043), Gem (16045), Gooding (16047), Idaho (16049), Jefferson (16051), Jerome (16053), Kootenai (16055), Latah (16057), Lemhi (16059), Lewis (16061), Lincoln (16063), Madison (16065), Minidoka (16067), Nez Perce (16069), Oneida (16071), Owyhee (16073), Payette (16075), Power (16077), Shoshone (16079), Teton (16081), Twin Falls (16083), Valley (16085), Washington (16087)
MS Grenada (28043), Hinds (28049)*, Leflore (28083)*, Montgomery (28097), Tishomingo (28141)*
ND Bottineau (38009), Burleigh (38015), Dunn (38025)*, Kidder (38043)*, Morton (38059), Oliver (38065), Rolette (38079), Stark (38089), Stutsman (38093)*
RI Kent (44003), Washington (44009)*
UT Beaver (49001)*, Daggett (49009)*, Grand (49019)*, Iron (49021)*, Kane (49025)*, Salt Lake (49035), Summit (49043), Uintah (49047)*, Utah (49049), Wasatch (49051), Washington (49053)*
WA Grays Harbor (53027), Kittitas (53037), Lewis (53041), Lincoln (53043), Okanogan (53047), Pierce (53053), San Juan (53055), Spokane (53063), Thurston (53067), Wahkiakum (53069), Whatcom (53073), Yakima (53077)
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
U.S. Distribution by Watershed Help
Watershed Region Help Watershed Name (Watershed Code)
01 Pawcatuck-Wood (01090005)+
06 Pickwick Lake (06030005)+*
08 Yalobusha (08030205)+, Lower Big Black (08060202)+*
09 Willow (09010004)+
10 Lower Little Missouri (10110205)+*, Painted Woods-Square Butte (10130101)+, Upper Lake Oahe (10130102)+, Apple (10130103)+*, Upper Heart (10130202)+, Lower Heart (10130203)+, Pipestem (10160002)+*
14 Upper Colorado-Kane Springs (14030005)+*, Upper Green-Flaming Gorge Reservoir (14040106)+*, Lower Green-Diamond (14060001)+*, Ashley-Brush (14060002)+*
15 Kanab (15010003)+*, Upper Virgin (15010008)+*, Fort Pierce Wash (15010009)+*, Lower Virgin (15010010)+*, Rillito (15050302)+, Lower Santa Cruz (15050303)+, Upper Verde (15060202)+
16 Central Bear (16010102)+, Bear Lake (16010201)+, Middle Bear (16010202)+, Little Bear-Logan (16010203)+, Lower Bear-Malad (16010204)+, Upper Weber (16020101)+, Lower Weber (16020102)+, Spanish Fork (16020202)+, Provo (16020203)+, Jordan (16020204)+, Curlew Valley (16020309)+, Beaver Bottoms-Upper Beaver (16030007)+*
17 Lower Kootenai (17010104)+, Moyie (17010105)+, Lower Clark Fork (17010213)+, Pend Oreille Lake (17010214)+, Priest (17010215)+, Pend Oreille (17010216)+, Upper Coeur D'alene (17010301)+, South Fork Coeur D'alene (17010302)+, Coeur D'alene Lake (17010303)+, St. Joe (17010304)+, Upper Spokane (17010305)+, Okanogan (17020006)+, Upper Columbia-Entiat (17020010)+, Upper Crab (17020013)+, Upper Yakima (17030001)+, Naches (17030002)+, Palisades (17040104)+, Salt (17040105)+, Idaho Falls (17040201)+, Upper Henrys (17040202)+, Lower Henrys (17040203)+, Teton (17040204)+, Willow (17040205)+, American Falls (17040206)+, Blackfoot (17040207)+, Portneuf (17040208)+, Lake Walcott (17040209)+, Raft (17040210)+, Goose (17040211)+, Upper Snake-Rock (17040212)+, Salmon Falls (17040213)+, Beaver-Camas (17040214)+, Birch (17040216)+, Little Lost (17040217)+, Big Lost (17040218)+, Big Wood (17040219)+, Camas (17040220)+, Little Wood (17040221)+, C. J. Idaho (17050101)+, Bruneau (17050102)+, Middle Snake-Succor (17050103)+, Upper Owyhee (17050104)+, East Little Owyhee. Nevada, (17050106)+, Middle Owyhee (17050107)+, Jordan (17050108)+, Boise-Mores (17050112)+, South Fork Boise (17050113)+, Lower Boise (17050114)+, Middle Snake-Payette (17050115)+, South Fork Payette (17050120)+, Middle Fork Payette (17050121)+, Payette (17050122)+, North Fork Payette (17050123)+, Weiser (17050124)+, Brownlee Reservoir (17050201)+, Hells Canyon (17060101)+, Lower Snake-Asotin (17060103)+, Palouse (17060108)+, Rock (17060109)+, Upper Salmon (17060201)+, Middle Salmon-Panther (17060203)+, Lemhi (17060204)+, Upper Middle Fork Salmon (17060205)+, Lower Middle Fork Salmon (17060206)+, Middle Salmon-Chamberlain (17060207)+, South Fork Salmon (17060208)+, Lower Salmon (17060209)+, Little Salmon (17060210)+, Lower Selway (17060302)+, Lochsa (17060303)+, Middle Fork Clearwater (17060304)+, South Fork Clearwater (17060305)+, Clearwater (17060306)+, Upper North Fork Clearwater (17060307)+, Lower North Fork Clearwater (17060308)+, Lower Columbia-Clatskanie (17080003)+, Lower Cowlitz (17080005)+, Upper Chehalis (17100103)+, Lower Chehalis (17100104)+, San Juan Islands (17110003)+, Nooksack (17110004)+, Puyallup (17110014)+, Nisqually (17110015)+
+ Natural heritage record(s) exist for this watershed
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
Ecology & Life History
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Reproduction Comments: Clutch size is usually 2. Incubation lasts 5-6 weeks, by both sexes. Young first fly at about 9 weeks. Family may stay together several months after young fledge. Does not renest if clutch is lost.
Ecology Comments: Roosts singly or in groups. Average distance between communal roost and feeding site was 8 km in Maryland/Pennsylvania (Coleman and Fraser 1987). Mean summer range of two known breeders was 6942 hectares; 90% of locations were within 10 kilometers of roost (Kirk and Mossman 1998). Roosts may be temporary (at a food source), seasonal (spring-fall), or permanent (peak numbers in early winter) (Palmer 1988). Human disturbance and canid predation may be significant causes of nest failure in the eastern U.S. (Coleman and Fraser 1989).
Non-Migrant: Y
Locally Migrant: Y
Long Distance Migrant: Y
Mobility and Migration Comments: Generally arrives in northernmost breeding areas in March-April, departs September-November (Bent 1937). Large numbers pass through Panama late February-early April and October-November (Ridgely and Gwynne 1989). Migrants and residents coexist in Panama from Novemnber to April (Smith 1980). Large migratory flocks pass through Costa Rica, mainly over Caribbean lowlands, in both fall (September-October) and spring (late January to mid-May (Stiles and Skutch 1989). Generally avoids crossing wide expanses of water. Has been described as nomadic, rather than migratory, in North America.
Estuarine Habitat(s): Tidal flat/shore
Palustrine Habitat(s): FORESTED WETLAND, Riparian
Terrestrial Habitat(s): Bare rock/talus/scree, Cliff, Cropland/hedgerow, Desert, Forest - Conifer, Forest - Hardwood, Forest - Mixed, Grassland/herbaceous, Savanna, Shrubland/chaparral, Woodland - Conifer, Woodland - Hardwood, Woodland - Mixed
Special Habitat Factors: Fallen log/debris, Standing snag/hollow tree
Habitat Comments: Forested and open situations, more commonly in the latter, from lowlands to mountains (AOU 1983). May roost in large flocks at night in trees; roosts often near or over water. In Pennsylvania, selected large conifers for mid-winter roost (Wright et al. 1986).

Eggs are laid in caves (especially in West); on cliffs; in hollow logs, trees, or stumps (tree-cavity nesting formerly more common); on ground in dense shrubbery (especially in eastern U.S.); sometimes in/under abandoned building in woods (Jackson 1983, Palmer 1988); sometimes in abandoned hawk nest (Hilty and Brown 1986). In Pennsylvania/Maryland, nested in areas that were roadless, forested, and undeveloped (Coleman and Fraser 1989).

Adult Food Habits: Carnivore
Immature Food Habits: Carnivore
Food Comments: Eats mainly vertebrate carrion (domestic animals and wild sources, down to the size of small amphibians; often small mammals); prefers fresh meat. Sometimes eats ripe or rotten fruits. Sometimes kills small animals. Locates food visually and/or by odor. Can survive for over two weeks without food.
Adult Phenology: Diurnal
Immature Phenology: Diurnal
Phenology Comments: In one study, most left roost 3.5-5 hours after sunrise. May remain at roost up to 2 or more days during rainy weather. (Palmer 1988).
Length: 69 centimeters
Weight: 1467 grams
Economic Attributes Not yet assessed
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Management Summary
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Management Requirements: See Wallace and Temple (1983) for information on propagation and release.
Population/Occurrence Delineation
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Use Class: Breeding
Subtype(s): Nest site
Minimum Criteria for an Occurrence: Evidence of breeding (including historical); and potential recurring breeding at a given location, minimally a reliable observation of one or more breeding pairs with occupied nests in appropriate habitat. Occurrence includes not only the nest sites, but also the surrounding areas used for feeding during the nesting season.
Mapping Guidance: Although separations are based on nest sites, occurrences include nesting areas as well as foraging areas. Foraging areas for different occurrences may overlap.

Where an occurrence is at least twice the size of a minimum A-ranked occurrence, it may be divided into two or more A-ranked occurrences along divisions that are narrower (or absent) than the separation distances given. The dividing lines should be made as much as possible along lines of limited vulture use; for example, along very wide bodies of water.

Separation Barriers: None.
Separation Distance for Unsuitable Habitat: 10 km
Separation Distance for Suitable Habitat: 10 km
Separation Justification: Occurrences represent relatively distinct clusters of one or more nest sites and do not necessarily represent demographically distinct populations. Occurrence separation is based on nest sites; nest sites separated by a gap greater than the separation distance represent different occurrences, regardless of foraging areas, which may overlap.

In Pennsylvania and Maryland, mean home range in summer was 27,050 hectares. Mean home range of two known breeders was 6942 hectares; 90% of radio detections within 10 kilometers of communal roost (Kirk and Mossman 1998).

Inferred Minimum Extent of Habitat Use (when actual extent is unknown): 4 km
Inferred Minimum Extent Justification: Roughly based on an average breeding home range of 6900 hectares (Kirk and Mossman 1998).
Date: 09Sep2004
Author: Cannings, S., and G. Hammerson

Use Class: Migratory stopover
Subtype(s): Roost site
Minimum Criteria for an Occurrence: Evidence of recurring presence of migrating birds (including historical); and potential recurring presence at a given location, usually minimally a reliable observation of 50 birds. Occurrences should be locations where the species is resident for some time during the appropriate season; it is preferable to have observations documenting presence over at least 7 days annually. Be cautious about creating EOs for observations that may represent single events.
Separation Barriers: None.
Separation Distance for Unsuitable Habitat: 10 km
Separation Distance for Suitable Habitat: 10 km
Separation Justification: Separation distance somewhat arbitrary; set at 10 kilometers to define occurrences of managable size for conservation purposes. However, occurrences defined primarily on the basis of areas supporting concentrations of birds, rather than on the basis of distinct populations.
Date: 15Apr2002
Author: Cannings, S.

Use Class: Nonbreeding
Subtype(s): Roost site
Minimum Criteria for an Occurrence: Evidence of recurring presence of wintering birds (including historical); and potential recurring presence at a given location, usually minimally a reliable observation of 25 birds. Occurrences should be locations where the species is resident for some time during the appropriate season; it is preferable to have observations documenting presence over at least 20 days annually. Be cautious about creating EOs for observations that may represent single events.
Separation Barriers: None.
Separation Distance for Unsuitable Habitat: 10 km
Separation Distance for Suitable Habitat: 10 km
Separation Justification: Separation distance somewhat arbitrary; set at 10 kilometers to define occurrences of managable size for conservation purposes. However, occurrences defined primarily on the basis of areas supporting concentrations of roosting or foraging birds, rather than on the basis of distinct populations.
Date: 15Apr2002
Author: Cannings, S.
Population/Occurrence Viability
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U.S. Invasive Species Impact Rank (I-Rank) Not yet assessed
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Authors/Contributors
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Element Ecology & Life History Edition Date: 29Mar1995
Element Ecology & Life History Author(s): Hammerson, G.

Zoological data developed by NatureServe and its network of natural heritage programs (see Local Programs) and other contributors and cooperators (see Sources).

References
Help
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  • Campbell, R.W., N.K. Dawe, I.McT. Cowan, J.M. Cooper, G. Kaiser, and M.C.E. McNall. 1990. The Birds of British Columbia, Vol. 1. Nonpasserines: Introduction, Loons through Waterfowl. Royal B.C. Mus. in association with Environ. Can., Can. Wildl. Serv. 514pp.

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  • Fain, M. G., and P. Houde. 2004. Parallel radiations in the primary clades of birds. Evolution 58:2558-2573.

  • Forest Practices Code. 1997. Turkey Vulture in Species and Plant Community Accounts for Identified Wildlife: Vol. 1. B.C. Minist. For. and B.C. Environ. 184pp.

  • Godfrey, W. E. 1986. The birds of Canada. Revised edition. National Museum of Natural Sciences, Ottawa. 596 pp. + plates.

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