The Black Vulture vs. The Turkey Vulture: How to Tell the Difference

Okay, so I’ve mentioned before how even though I love my neighbors to death, and respect them for their worldly wisdom and knowledge, but some of them have sometimes they don’t get their facts straight.

Turkey Vulture

For example, in Texas last year, someone pointed up to a vulture and said, “That’s a turkey buzzard. Nasty, mean birds.”

Since the turkey vulture is one of my favorite birds after hearing so many Native American creation stories about them, so I’d done some reading on them and I said, “Don’t you mean the black vulture?”

He said, “No, black vultures are the nice ones.”

Actually, he had the identification right, but got the personalities backwards.

Turkey Vulture Face.

To the left are pictures of turkey vultures. Turkey vultures are shy and gentle, avoiding confrontation. The beaks of turkey vultures are relatively weak and dull, and so are unable to rip open tough carcass hides.

For this reason, turkey vultures often hang out with black vultures. They’re about the same relative size, yet their

The Turkey Vulture in Flight. Note how the white extends across the entire wing.

beaks are capable of shredding tough hides. The black vultures gorge themselves and leave the rest to the turkeys. Cattle ranchers in Texas have reported vultures taking out newborn calves. They quickly blamed the turkey vultures, who are usually the only ones remaining at the black vulture’s kill.

The black vultures benefit from this cross-species flocking, too. A black vulture’s sense of smell sucks for a vulture, whereas turkey vultures have the best sense of smell of all land mammals, able to detect food miles away.

 

 

Black Vulture

 

On the right are pictures of the Black Vulture. They’re easy to distinguish once the points are brought out.

 

 

 

Black Vulture Face

Black Vulture in Flight. Note the white on the tips of the wings only.

 

 

This is the face of a black vulture. Their faces are gray or black. Obviously.

 

 

 

Commonly, you will see vultures from below. The wings of the black vulture are merely tipped in white. Turkey vultures have a broad band of white on the underside of the wing that spans the entire wing.

 

 

You’ll also see a lot of vultures on the ground, where they are harder to distinguish. The photograph below is a good example of turkey and black vultures hanging out together, just as they might be at a feeding. You can easily tell the turkeys from the blacks just by their red heads.

Black and Turkey Vultres hanging out together. Note the red faces of the two turkey vultures in the back.

Vultures are fascinating and amazing birds and I encourage you to read up on them to find out more about them. And don’t rely on the identifications of a Texas redneck unless it involves trucks, horses, dogs, or guns!

Peace.

Categories: Nature | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Post navigation

2 thoughts on “The Black Vulture vs. The Turkey Vulture: How to Tell the Difference

  1. I’m putting together a website on nature for our locals (Seabrook Island, SC) and your picture of the flying black vulture would be perfect. May I use it? Unfortunately, there’s not room for credits so your name would not show.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at WordPress.com. The Adventure Journal Theme.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 203 other followers

%d bloggers like this: