Then there is the diet. As a scavenger the turkey vulture’s tastes run to the putrid. Not a chance you’ll find this guy in the frozen foods aisle! Like most creatures of nature, the vulture is ideally designed for its lifestyle. Take that bald red head. This streamlines post-meal clean up, as the detrius dries up there and scratches right off. The turkey vulture is equipped with excellent eyesight to help him spot food on the ground, and also a sense of smell, something most other birds do not have. The turkey vulture has a wicked beak for ripping and tearing, while his feet are harmless. He has no need for strong talons to subdue his prey! Notice the white on the legs of the bird in the picture. He has been using an evaporative cooling method called urohydrosis, which means he’s excreted on his legs to bring his body temperature down. Neato, huh?
I hesitate to even mention the projectile vomiting. This is a defense mechanism the birds use when threatened. Imagine a turkey vulture on the ground gorging on some dead thing when coyote trots up. The turkey vulture is too full to fly away, so he vomits a stream of highly acidic and horrendous smelling bile in the direction of the coyote. This development deters most predators and also lightens the load so the vulture can escape.
Despite some rather unsavory habits the turkey vulture performs a valuable duty, much like nature’s sanitation department. Imagine the bacteria that would be floating around the desert if turkey vultures weren’t cleaning up!
When we saw this vulture again the next day we decided we should check in on the neighbor, but she’s fine.