Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura)

Turkey Vulture
Turkey Vulture - Chino, CA
© Tom Benson
Turkey Vulture
Turkey Vulture - Patagonia, AZ
© Tom Benson

The Turkey Vulture is a rare spring migrant on campus from February to April, but with a few sightings (presumably birds summering locally) from May through July as well. It is usually seen flying over campus in small flocks, but this species often migrates in flocks of hundreds to thousands at other locations in southern California. The Turkey Vulture is a common migrant and wintering bird in southern California.

High Count: 85, Average Count: 1-5

The Turkey Vulture is entirely dark brown with an unfeathered red head, although in flight the remiges (long flight feathers of the wings) appear contrastingly pale. When soaring they characteristically hold their wings in a shallow 'V' (called a dihedral) and often teeter from side to side. This is an excellent field mark for identifying Turkey Vultures.


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