Turkey vultures are a bird species native to Michigan and most of North and South America. Turkey vultures in Michigan don’t spend all year here, however. They spend the warmer months here, but in the winter they migrate south for warmer temperatures and no snow.
Turkey vultures are scavengers that eat carrion, or dead things. With their big nostrils, they can smell carrion from flight close to the ground. Since vultures spend a lot of time in carcasses, they have bald heads and feet to keep from getting messy feathers.
Turkey vultures maintain stability and lift when flying by holding its wings up at a slight V-shape. They use thermals (columns of warm, rising air) to gain height in the air and are able to soar long distances without flapping their wings.
Our resident turkey vulture, Val, came to us in 2015 after a broken wing injury left her unable to fly. Val spends her days soaking up the sunshine with her wings stretched out, playing with meat bones and being an animal ambassador. Being an animal ambassador isn’t easy. Val requires daily care and training, but has come a long way since she first arrived!
Val is not on public display, but she sometimes visits the main Nature Center building with the naturalists and teaches the public about her important species!
Life Span: 10 years in the wild, up to 20 in captivity
Size: 6-foot wingspan, 2-3 feet tall
Food Habits: Carnivorous Scavenger