Cathartes aura


These birds can be seen soaring around Lake Murray. You can easily spot them by their red heads and enormous wing spans. As big as they are, they gracefully sail through the air, hardly ever flapping their wings. When flying, their wings are held in a very shallow V shape. These birds are rarely seen on or near the ground unless they are feeding. The Turkey Vultures only feed on carcasses. And from what I observed they appear to feed one at a time. With fights ensuing if more try to eat. It is said that their heads contain no feathers so as not to contract any parasites while feeding. It is also said that the birds may regurgitate their rotting meal 1) as a self defense, 2) to reduce their weight for a faster take-off, and 3) to protect their young from preditors by surrounding them with the rotton, smelly, regurgitated meal.


A huge all black bird with a red, featherless head. When flying, the underside of their primary flying feathers appear silvery gray. 26 to 30 inches in length.


Lakes, mountains, and woodlands.


2 whitish eggs with dark brown marks and a 38-41 day incubation period. Fledging occurs 66-88 days after hatching. There is no nest. The eggs are placed in a rock crevice, tree hollow, or a hollow log.

Observed Locations:

  • Lake Murray, La Mesa
  • Mission Trails Park, San Diego
  • Ramona
  • Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

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Copyright © Scott Streit, 2000.