The name "vulture" is derived from the Latin word vulturus, meaning "tearer," and is a reference to its feeding habits.The Turkey Vulture feeds primarily on a wide variety of carrion, from small mammals to large grazers, preferring those recently dead, and avoiding carcasses that have reached the point of putrefaction. It forages by smell, an ability that is uncommon in the avian world. It often will fly low to the ground to pick up the scent of ethyl mercaptan, a gas produced by the beginnings of decay in dead animals. The olfactory lobe of its brain, responsible for processing smells, is particularly large compared to that of other animals. This heightened ability to detect odors allows it to search for carrion below the forest canopy. King Vultures, Black Vultures and condors, which lack the ability to smell carrion, follow the Turkey Vulture to carcasses. This vulture is often seen standing in a spread-winged stance. The stance is believed to serve multiple functions: drying the wings, warming the body, and baking off bacteria. It is practiced more often following damp or rainy nights. The Turkey Vulture often defecates on its own legs, using the evaporation of the water in the feces and/or urine to cool itself, a process known as urohidrosis. It cools the blood vessels in the unfeathered tarsi and feet, and causes white uric acid to streak the legs.
Preserved Light Photography