Turkey Vulture

Cathartes aura
Range Map

The Turkey Vulture is the most widespread of the New World vultures. We find them from southern Canada to southmost South America. In the northern parts of its range, it is only a summer breeder. These birds’ highly developed olfactory sense enables them to locate carcasses concealed under cover and out of any line of sight. Other scavengers will often follow them to locate the food source.

Science recognizes five subspecies of Turkey Vulture, two of which breed in North America:

  • C. a. septentrionalis breeds in eastern North America from southeastern Canada south to the southeastern USA. They spend winter in the southeastern USA.
  • C. a. meridionalis (or C. a. teter) breeds in western North America east to southern Manitoba and south-central Texas. Most spend the winter in Central and South America, as far south as southern Brazil and Paraguay, but birds in the southern parts of their breeding range remain throughout the year.
  • C. a. aura breeds in western North America from southwestern Canada east to Manitoba, and western USA east to southern Texas,south to Costa Rica, and the Greater Antilles. They spend winter south to central South America.
  • C. a. ruficollis lives in southern Central America, South America and Trinidad.
  • C. a. jota lives on the Pacific coast of South America, south from Ecuador in the eastern Andes to Patagonia.
  • C. a. falklandica lives on the Pacific Coast from Ecuador and Peru south to Chile, and on the Falkland Islands.

These great scavengers have entertained me from California to Texas, and from Oregon east across the Great Basin.

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