Cathartidae (New World Vultures)
Turkey Vulture,Cathartes aura. (Fig. 11.1) Male length 25 1/2 in (65 cm), female length 27 in (68 cm); male weight 3 1/2 lb (1,559 g), female weight 3 2/3 lb (1,660 g). Uncommon summer resident in the White-Inyo Range; occurs at all elevations.
Turkey Vultures scavenge over open woods, brush, and grassland in varied terrain. Ranches and farming country are also visited. Although most common over valleys and foothills, they occasionally appear at higher elevations. The species is easily recognized by its very small head and broad wings held in a dihedral while soaring. Turkey Vultures forage singly, in pairs, or in loose groups. Odors wafting from carrion are picked up by their keen sense of smell, a rare trait in birds. Because vultures depend largely on thermals for uplift, they are less active on windless days or during stormy weather. This species generally roosts in two separate sites; the main one is used during the night. The second roost, used at dawn and dusk, serves mainly for sunning and preening. These bulky birds prefer to perch in open-branching live or dead trees, on poles, or even on the ground. Such perches enable easy takeoffs and landings. Nest sites are sheltered pockets in cliff faces or among large rocks on steep, brushy slopes. References: D. Davis (1979), Rea (1983).