This is a large, black to blackish-brown bird with a bare head and neck. Sexes are similar in size and plumage. Its beak is sturdy and pale, with large, oval, perforate nostrils; eyes are gray-brown. The long, slim, rounded tail extends more than half its length beyond folded wings when the bird is perched. The naked skin of the head and neck is black in young vultures, fades first to gray as they mature, then turns red, becoming wrinkled and warty as they reach adulthood. Although legs and feet are flesh-colored to deep red, they may appear pale due to this bird's habit of defecating on its legs to regulate body temperature in the heat. [Courtesy of Brian Lanker] This vulture glides and soars with its wings in a tilting, flattened v-shape, circling up on thermal air currents, seeking food with its acute sense of smell. The underside of the wings show a pale, silvery lining in flight. Although it resembles a hawk when seen in the air, this bird is not a raptor. Turkey Vultures are more closely related to storks than to true vultures, like those of the Old World. The weak beak and claws of this species are not those of a predator, but of a carrion eater.
Meet our resident Turkey Vultures: