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Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura)
turkey vulture

DESCRIPTION: L=27" (69cm), WS=69" (175cm). Sexes similar. Overall black, with pink head. In flight, wings show dark leading edge and lighter trailing edge and wings are held up in a V pattern (different from most hawks and eagles).
NATURAL HISTORY: Feeds on dead animals (carrion) found by both sight and scent (unusual among birds). Vultures save energy by soaring, using upcurrents of air (thermals) to stay aloft. They also save energy by lowering their body temperature (torpor) at night and then basking while perched (with wings outstretched ) to warm back up in the morning. Their black plumage helps them absorb heat while basking then helps keep them keep cooler (compared to white plumage) while soaring during the hot day looking for carrion (see black as adaptation). To cool themselves down when too hot, they urinate on their unfeathered, blood vessel-filled legs, allowing for evaporative cooling but staining their legs white.