Hmmm, the last few weeks I have been wondering about the large black birds circling the woods behind my house.  They are huge and soar high on the heat thermals.  At first glance I hoped they were eagles but I have come to realize that they are in fact Turkey Vultures.  Ok I will admit this is a weird wonder topic, but hey curiosity has no limits.

It seems to me that there is an increased population of these birds this summer.  I can recall seeing them in the Smokies and the Rockies and in all Western movies but not around here.  

Turns out that they are actually indigenous to Wisconsin and not unusual.  It is possible that I am just getting better at differentiating them from the raptors, or I am frequenting their habitats more.
turkey vulture

They are a migratory bird that travels between South America and Central Wisconsin. This bird has a pretty gross reputation.  It seems that all scavengers; hyenas, coyotes, catfish, etc,do not “feel the love” from humans.  A turkey vulture’s appearance is not endearing. They are huge and scary with a naked, blood red head  We are disgusted by their carrion food source and their hovering attendance to death. Though the reality is that we need their garbage management services .

So the vital details of the Turkey Vulture are:

  • They can be identified by their circular flight pattern.
  • Turkey Vultures are not classified as a raptor but rather in the stork family.  
  • They have a wingspan an average of 70 inches and weigh up to 5 pounds

The 2 new facts that I discovered in this little exploration were that these birds do not have voice boxes so they are silent, and they are able to smell (not see) their supper on the forest floor from far above in the sky.  

VulturesDevil’s Lake is a favorite gathering place for the birds as they prepare for migration in the fall.  Here is a long shot of several sitting along the cliffs on the trail.