Turkey vulture

The turkey vulture (Cathartes aura), also known in some North American regions as the turkey buzzard (or just buzzard), and in some areas of the Caribbean as the John crow or carrion crow,[2] is the most widespread of the New World vultures.[3] One of three species in the genus Cathartes of the family Cathartidae, the turkey vulture ranges from southern Canada to the southernmost tip of South America. It inhabits a variety of open and semi-open areas, including subtropical forests, shrublands, pastures, and deserts.[1]

Like all New World vultures, it is not closely related to the Old World vultures of Europe, Africa, and Asia. The two groups strongly resemble each other because of convergent evolution; natural selection often leads to similar body plans in animals that adapt independently to the same conditions.

The turkey vulture is a scavenger and feeds almost exclusively on carrion.[4] It finds its food using its keen eyes and sense of smell, flying low enough to detect the gasses produced by the beginnings of the process of decay in dead animals.[4] In flight, it uses thermals to move through the air, flapping its wings infrequently. It roosts in large community groups. Lacking a syrinx—the vocal organ of birds—its only vocalizations are grunts or low hisses.[5] It nests in caves, hollow trees, or thickets. Each year it generally raises two chicks, which it feeds by regurgitation.[6] It has very few natural predators.[7] In the United States, the vulture receives legal protection under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918.[8]

Turkey vulture
Cathartes aura -Santa Teresa County Park, San Jose, California, USA -adult-8a
At Santa Teresa County Park, San Jose, California, US
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Accipitriformes
Family: Cathartidae
Genus: Cathartes
C. aura
Binomial name
Cathartes aura
Range of C. aura      Summer only range     Year-round range

Vultur aura Linnaeus, 1758


Cathartes aura -Florida -USA -flying-8-4c
In flight over Florida

The turkey vulture received its common name from the resemblance of the adult's bald red head and its dark plumage to that of the male wild turkey, while the name "vulture" is derived from the Latin word vulturus, meaning "tearer", and is a reference to its feeding habits.[9] The word buzzard is used by North Americans to refer to this bird, yet in the Old World that term refers to members of the genus Buteo.[10] The generic term Cathartes means "purifier" and is the Latinized form from the Greek kathartēs/καθαρτης.[11] The turkey vulture was first formally described by Linnaeus as Vultur aura in his Systema Naturae in 1758, and characterised as V. fuscogriseus, remigibus nigris, rostro albo ("brown-gray vulture, with black wings and a white beak").[12] It is a member of the family Cathartidae, along with the other six species of New World vultures, and included in the genus Cathartes, along with the greater yellow-headed vulture and the lesser yellow-headed vulture. Like other New World vultures, the turkey vulture has a diploid chromosome number of 80.[13]

The taxonomic placement of the turkey vulture and the remaining six species of New World vultures has been in flux.[14] Though both are similar in appearance and have similar ecological roles, the New World and Old World vultures evolved from different ancestors in different parts of the world. Some earlier authorities suggested that the New World vultures were more closely related to storks.[15] More recent authorities maintained their overall position in the order Falconiformes along with the Old World vultures[16] or place them in their own order, Cathartiformes.[17]

However, recent genetic studies indicate that neither New World nor Old World vultures are close to falcons, nor are New World vultures close to storks.[18] Both are basal members of the clade Afroaves,[19] with Old World vultures comprising several groups within the family Accipitridae, also containing eagles, kites, and hawks,[20][21] while New World vultures in Cathartiformes are a sister group to Accipitriformes[19] (containing the osprey and secretarybird along with Accipitridae[21]).

Eastern Turkey Vulture (Canada)
A turkey vulture C. a. septentrionalis (Canada)

There are five subspecies of turkey vulture:

  • C. a. aura is the nominate subspecies. It is found from Mexico south through South America and the Greater Antilles. This subspecies occasionally overlaps its range with other subspecies. It is the smallest of the subspecies but is nearly indistinguishable from C. a. meridionalis in color.[22]
  • C. a. jota, the Chilean turkey vulture, is larger, browner, and slightly paler than C. a. ruficollis. The secondary feathers and wing coverts may have gray margins.[23]
  • C. a. meridionalis, the western turkey vulture, is a synonym for C. a. teter. C. a. teter was identified as a subspecies by Friedman in 1933, but in 1964 Alexander Wetmore separated the western birds, which took the name meridionalis, which was applied earlier to a migrant from South America. It breeds from southern Manitoba, southern British Columbia, central Alberta and Saskatchewan south to Baja California, south-central Arizona, southeast New Mexico, and south-central Texas.[24] It is the most migratory subspecies, migrating as far as South America, where it overlaps the range of the smaller C. a. aura. It differs from the eastern turkey vulture in color, as the edges of the lesser wing coverts are darker brown and narrower.[22]
  • C. a. ruficollis is found in Panama south through Uruguay and Argentina. It is also found on the island of Trinidad.[25] It is darker and more black than C. a. aura, with brown wing edgings which are narrower or absent altogether.[25] The head and neck are dull red with yellow-white or green-white markings. Adults generally have a pale yellow patch on the crown of the head.[23]
  • C. a. septentrionalis is known as the eastern turkey vulture. The eastern and western turkey vultures differ in tail and wing proportions. It ranges from southeastern Canada south through the eastern United States. It is less migratory than C. a. meridionalis and rarely migrates to areas south of the United States.[22]


Cathartes aura cranium
Skull of a Turkey vulture

A large bird, it has a wingspan of 160–183 cm (63–72 in), a length of 62–81 cm (24–32 in), and weight of 0.8 to 2.41 kg (1.8 to 5.3 lb).[26][27][28][29] Birds in the northern limit of the species' range average larger in size than the vulture from the neotropics. 124 birds from Florida averaged 2 kg (4.4 lb) while 65 and 130 birds from Venezuela were found to average 1.22 and 1.45 kg (2.7 and 3.2 lb), respectively.[30][31][32] It displays minimal sexual dimorphism; sexes are identical in plumage and in coloration, and are similar in size.[33] The body feathers are mostly brownish-black, but the flight feathers on the wings appear to be silvery-gray beneath, contrasting with the darker wing linings.[26] The adult's head is small in proportion to its body and is red in color with few to no feathers. It also has a relatively short, hooked, ivory-colored beak.[34] The irises of the eyes are gray-brown; legs and feet are pink-skinned, although typically stained white. The eye has a single incomplete row of eyelashes on the upper lid and two rows on the lower lid.[35]

Eastern Turkey Vulture in flight, Canada
A turkey vulture in flight, C. a. septentrionalis (Canada)

The two front toes of the foot are long and have small webs at their bases.[36] Tracks are large, between 9.5 and 14 cm (3.7 and 5.5 in) in length and 8.2 and 10.2 cm (3.2 and 4.0 in) in width, both measurements including claw marks. Toes are arranged in the classic, anisodactyl pattern.[37] The feet are flat, relatively weak, and poorly adapted to grasping; the talons are also not designed for grasping, as they are relatively blunt.[3] In flight, the tail is long and slim. The black vulture is relatively shorter-tailed and shorter-winged, which makes it appear rather smaller in flight than the turkey vulture, although the body masses of the two species are roughly the same. The nostrils are not divided by a septum, but rather are perforate; from the side one can see through the beak.[38] It undergoes a molt in late winter to early spring. It is a gradual molt, which lasts until early autumn.[6] The immature bird has a gray head with a black beak tip; the colors change to those of the adult as the bird matures.[39] Captive longevity is not well known. As of 2015 there are two captive birds over 40 years old: the Gabbert Raptor Center on the University of Minnesota campus is home to a turkey vulture named Nero with a confirmed hatch year of 1974,[40] and another male bird, named Richard, lives at the Lindsay Wildlife Experience in Walnut Creek, CA. Richard hatched in 1974 and arrived at the museum later that year.[41] The oldest wild captured banded bird was 16 years old.[4]

Leucistic (sometimes mistakenly called "albino") turkey vultures are sometimes seen.[42][43]

The turkey vulture, like most other vultures, has very few vocalization capabilities. Because it lacks a syrinx, it can only utter hisses and grunts.[5] It usually hisses when it feels threatened, or when fighting with other vultures over a carcass. Grunts are commonly heard from hungry young and from adults in their courtship display.

Distribution and habitat

The turkey vulture has a large range, with an estimated global occurrence of 28,000,000 km2 (11,000,000 sq mi). It is the most abundant vulture in the Americas.[3] Its global population is estimated to be 4,500,000 individuals.[1] It is found in open and semi-open areas throughout the Americas from southern Canada to Cape Horn. It is a permanent resident in the southern United States, though northern birds may migrate as far south as South America.[4] The turkey vulture is widespread over open country, subtropical forests, shrublands, deserts, and foothills.[44] It is also found in pastures, grasslands, and wetlands.[1] It is most commonly found in relatively open areas which provide nearby woods for nesting and it generally avoids heavily forested areas.[26]

This bird with its crow-like aspect gave foot to the naming of the Quebrada de los Cuervos (Crows Ravine) in Uruguay, where they dwell together with the lesser yellow-headed vulture and the black vulture.[45]

Ecology and behavior

Spread-winged adult

The turkey vulture is gregarious and roosts in large community groups, breaking away to forage independently during the day. Several hundred vultures may roost communally in groups, which sometimes even include black vultures. It roosts on dead, leafless trees, and will also roost on man-made structures such as water or microwave towers. Though it nests in caves, it does not enter them except during the breeding season.[6] The turkey vulture lowers its night-time body temperature by about 6 degrees Celsius to 34 °C (93 °F), becoming slightly hypothermic.[36]

This vulture is often seen standing in a spread-winged stance. The stance is believed to serve multiple functions: drying the wings, warming the body, and baking off bacteria. It is practiced more often following damp or rainy nights. This same behavior is displayed by other New World vultures, by Old World vultures, and by storks.[7] Like storks, the turkey vulture often defecates on its own legs, using the evaporation of the water in the feces and/or urine to cool itself, a process known as urohidrosis.[46] It cools the blood vessels in the unfeathered tarsi and feet, and causes white uric acid to streak the legs.[47] The turkey vulture has few natural predators. Adult, immature and fledging vultures may fall prey to great horned owls, red-tailed hawks, golden eagles and bald eagles, while eggs and nestlings may be preyed on by mammals such as raccoons and opossums.[7][27][48][49][50] Foxes can occasionally ambush an adult but species that can climb are more likely to breach and predate nests than adults.[51] Its primary form of defense is regurgitating semi-digested meat, a foul-smelling substance, which deters most creatures intent on raiding a vulture nest.[6] It will also sting if the predator is close enough to get the vomit in its face or eyes. In some cases, the vulture must rid its crop of a heavy, undigested meal to take flight to flee from a potential predator.[34] Its life expectancy in the wild ranges upward of 16 years, with a captive life span of over 30 years being possible.[52][53]

The turkey vulture is awkward on the ground with an ungainly, hopping walk. It requires a great deal of effort to take flight, flapping its wings while pushing off the ground and hopping with its feet.[34] While soaring, the turkey vulture holds its wings in a shallow V-shape and often tips from side to side, frequently causing the gray flight feathers to appear silvery as they catch the light. The flight of the turkey vulture is an example of static soaring flight, in which it flaps its wings very infrequently, and takes advantage of rising thermals to stay soaring.[54]


The breeding season of the turkey vulture varies according to latitude.[55] In the southern United States, it commences in March, peaks in April to May, and continues into June.[56] In more northerly latitudes, the season starts later and extends into August.[57] Courtship rituals of the turkey vulture involve several individuals gathering in a circle, where they perform hopping movements around the perimeter of the circle with wings partially spread. In the air, one bird closely follows another while flapping and diving.[44]

Turkey vulture chick
One chick immediately hatched and one egg not yet hatched

Eggs are generally laid in the nesting site in a protected location such as a cliff, a cave, a rock crevice, a burrow, inside a hollow tree, or in a thicket. There is little or no construction of a nest; eggs are laid on a bare surface. Females generally lay two eggs, but sometimes one and rarely three. The eggs are cream-colored, with brown or lavender spots around their larger end.[44] Both parents incubate, and the young hatch after 30 to 40 days. Chicks are altricial, or helpless at birth. Both adults feed the chicks by regurgitating food for them, and care for them for 10 to 11 weeks. When adults are threatened while nesting, they may flee, or they may regurgitate on the intruder or feign death.[6] If the chicks are threatened in the nest, they defend themselves by hissing and regurgitating.[44] The young fledge at about nine to ten weeks. Family groups remain together until fall.[44]


Turkey Vulture feeding
Feeding on dead gull at Morro Bay, California

The turkey vulture feeds primarily on a wide variety of carrion, from small mammals to large grazers, preferring those recently dead, and avoiding carcasses that have reached the point of putrefaction. They may rarely feed on plant matter, shoreline vegetation, pumpkin, coconut[58] and other crops, live insects and other invertebrates.[44] In South America, turkey vultures have been photographed feeding on the fruits of the introduced oil palm.[59][60][61] They rarely, if ever, kill prey themselves.[62] The turkey vulture can often be seen along roadsides feeding on roadkill, or near bodies of water, feeding on washed-up fish.[4] They also will feed on fish or insects that have become stranded in shallow water.[6] Like other vultures, it plays an important role in the ecosystem by disposing of carrion, which would otherwise be a breeding ground for disease.[63]

Turkey Vulture stalks, catches and eats live garter snake (30570944315)
A turkey vulture eating a garter snake

The turkey vulture forages by smell, an ability that is uncommon in the avian world, often flying low to the ground to pick up the scent of ethyl mercaptan, a gas produced by the beginnings of decay in dead animals.[7] The olfactory lobe of its brain, responsible for processing smells, is particularly large compared to that of other animals.[7] This heightened ability to detect odors allows it to search for carrion below the forest canopy. King vultures, black vultures, and condors, which lack the ability to smell carrion, follow the turkey vulture to carcasses. The turkey vulture arrives first at the carcass, or with greater yellow-headed vultures or lesser yellow-headed vultures, which also share the ability to smell carrion.[7] It displaces the yellow-headed vultures from carcasses due to its larger size,[63] but is displaced in turn by the king vulture and both types of condor, which make the first cut into the skin of the dead animal. This allows the smaller, weaker-billed turkey vulture access to food, because it cannot tear the tough hides of larger animals on its own. This is an example of mutual dependence between species.[64]

Relationship with humans

Cathartes aura -Florida -USA -upper body-8
A side view, showing the perforated nostrils.

The turkey vulture is sometimes accused of carrying anthrax or hog cholera, both livestock diseases, on its feet or bill by cattle ranchers and is therefore occasionally perceived as a threat.[65] However, the virus that causes hog cholera is destroyed when it passes through the turkey vulture's digestive tract.[34] This species also may be perceived as a threat by farmers due to the similar black vulture's tendency to attack and kill newborn cattle. The turkey vulture does not kill live animals but will mix with flocks of black vultures and will scavenge what they leave behind. Nonetheless, its appearance at a location where a calf has been killed gives the incorrect impression that the turkey vulture represents a danger to calves.[66] The droppings produced by turkey vultures and other vultures can harm or kill trees and other vegetation.[67] The turkey vulture can be held in captivity, though the Migratory Bird Treaty Act prevents this in the case of uninjured animals or animals capable of returning to the wild.[68] In captivity, it can be fed fresh meat, and younger birds will gorge themselves if given the opportunity.[34]

The turkey vulture species receives special legal protections under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 in the United States,[8] by the Convention for the Protection of Migratory Birds in Canada,[69] and by the Convention for the Protection of Migratory Birds and Game Mammals in Mexico.[69] In the US it is illegal to take, kill, or possess turkey vultures, their eggs, and any body parts including but not limited to their feathers; violation of the law is punishable by a fine of up to $100,000 for individuals or $200,000 for organizations, and/or a prison term of 1 year.[68] It is listed as a species of Least Concern by the IUCN Red List. Populations appear to remain stable, and it has not reached the threshold of inclusion as a threatened species, which requires a decline of more than 30 percent in 10 years or three generations.[1]



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  • Ffrench, R. Birds of Trinidad and Tobago. ISBN 0-7136-6759-1
  • Stiles and Skutch. A guide to the birds of Costa Rica. ISBN 0-8014-9600-4
  • Kirk, D. A. and M. J. Mossman. 1998. "Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura)". In The Birds of North America, No. 339 (A. Poole and F. Gill, eds.). The Birds of North America, Inc., Philadelphia, PA.

External links

American Legion State Forest Trails

The American Legion State Forest Trails is a system of Blue-Blazed hiking trails in the Pleasant Valley section of Barkhamsted, Connecticut. The trails, which collectively total 3.18 miles (5.12 km) in length, are entirely within American Legion State Forest.

The American Legion State Forest Trails consist of two official "Blue-Blazed" hiking trails:

Henry Buck Trail (2.3 miles)

Turkey Vulture Trail (0.88 mile)

Arbor Hills Nature Preserve

Arbor Hills Nature Preserve is a 200-acre park in Plano, TX. It has several amenities including: 3 miles of paved hiking trail, 3 miles of unpaved hiking trail, a 2.8 mile off-road bike trail, restrooms, a covered pavilion, and a playground. The pavilion can be reserved for special events. An observation tower provides a bird's eye view of the park. There are three regions in the park: Blackland Prairie, Riparian Forest, and Upland Forest. Birds that live in the park include: killdeer, owls, woodpeckers, egrets, herons, scissor-tailed flycatcher, and turkey vulture. Many other wildlife such as deer, coyotes, snakes, bobcats, turtles, fish, and rabbits also live in the park.

Audubon Society of Portland

The Audubon Society of Portland is a non-profit environmental organization dedicated to wildlife conservancy in Portland, Oregon, United States.

Founded in 1902 and incorporated in 1909, it is one of the oldest such organizations in the world.

It is named in honor of John James Audubon, an ornithologist and naturalist who painted, cataloged, and described birds of North America in Birds of America published in sections between 1827 and 1838.

The society owns 150 acres (0.61 km2) of woodland adjacent to Forest Park, managed as a nature sanctuary and features indigenous vegetation and fauna, including a small stand of old growth timber. The sanctuary is open to the public for free.

Much of the sanctuary surrounds Balch Creek

near its headwaters and contains more than 4.5 miles (7.2 km) of hiking trails which connect to Forest Park's extensive trail system.Within the sanctuary is a nature center containing classrooms, retail store, wildlife taxidermy exhibits, auditorium, and a wildlife care center. The care center treats injured and orphaned native wildlife utilizing professional staff and more than one hundred volunteers. More than 3,500 animals are brought to the center each year.

Displays of live educational birds are adjacent to the care center. Five birds are on display, having injuries or imprinting that prevent them from successful reintroduction to the wild. Currently there is a Great Horned Owl, male and female American Kestrels, and a Turkey Vulture. There is also a Western Painted Turtle that was rescued from a pet store and now lives in a tank inside the Care Center.

In 2007, there were 21,615 hours volunteered to the society's efforts, including visitor reception, trail maintenance, tour guides, nature store attendant, clerical, conservation activists, and wildlife caretakers. It is one of the most highly rated charities of its kind, based on operational and organizational efficiency.The society is frequently consulted for expertise related to practical wildlife questions

and wildlife management practices.

Beaky Buzzard

Beaky Buzzard is an animated cartoon character in the Warner Bros. Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies series of cartoons.

He is a young turkey vulture (commonly called a "buzzard" in the United States) with black body feathers and a white tuft around his throat. His neck is long and thin, bending 90 degrees at an enormous Adam's apple. His neck and head are featherless, and his beak is large and yellow or orange, depending on the cartoon. The character is depicted as simpleminded with drawled speech, a perpetual silly grin, and partially-closed eyes.

Beaky was partly based on Edgar Bergen's puppet Mortimer Snerd.

Black vulture

The black vulture (Coragyps atratus), also known as the American black vulture, is a bird in the New World vulture family whose range extends from the southeastern United States to Central Chile and Uruguay in South America. Although a common and widespread species, it has a somewhat more restricted distribution than its compatriot, the turkey vulture, which breeds well into Canada and south to Tierra del Fuego. It is the only extant member of the genus Coragyps, which is in the family Cathartidae. Despite the similar name and appearance, this species is unrelated to the Eurasian black vulture, an Old World vulture in the family Accipitridae (which includes eagles, hawks, kites, and harriers). It inhabits relatively open areas which provide scattered forests or shrublands. With a wingspan of 1.5 m (4.9 ft), the black vulture is a large bird though relatively small for a vulture. It has black plumage, a featherless, grayish-black head and neck, and a short, hooked beak.

The black vulture is a scavenger and feeds on carrion, but will also eat eggs or kill newborn animals. In areas populated by humans, it also feeds at garbage dumps. It finds its meals either by using its keen eyesight or by following other (New World) vultures, which possess a keen sense of smell. Lacking a syrinx—the vocal organ of birds—its only vocalizations are grunts or low hisses. It lays its eggs in caves or hollow trees or on the bare ground, and generally raises two chicks each year, which it feeds by regurgitation. In the United States, the vulture receives legal protection under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918. This vulture also appeared in Mayan codices.


The genus Cathartes includes medium-sized to large carrion-feeding birds in the New World vulture (Cathartidae) family. The three species currently classified in this genus occur widely in the Americas.

Cathartes is the Greek word καθαρτής, for "purifier," referring to these vultures' role as "cleansers" that "tidy up" decomposing corpses in nature.

Connecticut Audubon Society Center at Fairfield

The Connecticut Audubon Society Center at Fairfield is a nature center and wildlife sanctuary in the Greenfield Hill area of Fairfield, Connecticut. Constructed in 1971, the center features classrooms for environmental education programs, live animals on display, natural history exhibits, a nature library, a solar greenhouse and a gift shop. Outside there is a compound with non-releasable rescued birds of prey, including owls, hawks, peregrine falcons, a turkey vulture and other raptors.

The center maintains the 152-acre (0.62 km2) Roy and Margot Larsen Wildlife Sanctuary with 7 miles (11 km) of trails, including the Chiboucas Wheelchair-accessible Trail for the Disabled, a pond observation platform and interpretive signs. The trail habitats include woods, marsh, stream, pond and meadow.

Environmental programs are offered for youth, school groups, Scout troops and other organizations, as well as summer camp and after school classes. Issues relating to birds, their habits and related environmental topics are a special focus.

The Connecticut Audubon Society Center at Fairfield is one of five nature centers and 19 wildlife sanctuaries operated by the Connecticut Audubon Society, which is separate from the National Audubon Society. The building is closed on Sundays.

Dustin the Turkey

Dustin the Turkey, a puppet character performed by John Morrison is a former star of RTÉ television's The Den between 1989 and its cancellation in 2010. He has been described as "the most subversive comedy force on Irish television".A turkey-vulture with a strong Dublin accent, Dustin first appeared on The Den with Zig and Zag in December 1989, but remained there after their 1993 departure to Channel 4. He also outlasted four human co-hosts, all of whom moved to radio, Ian Dempsey, Ray D'Arcy, Damien McCaul and Francis Boylan Jr.

Dustin has also had a successful music career with chart-topping singles in his native land. He won the public vote to represent Ireland at the Eurovision Song Contest 2008 with the song "Irelande Douze Pointe", though he did not progress past the first semi-final stage.

Golden Gate Canyon State Park

Golden Gate Canyon State Park is a Colorado State Park located in Gilpin and Jefferson counties northwest of Golden, Colorado. The 11,998-acre (48.55 km2) Front Range park established in 1960 has 36 miles (58 km) of hiking trails. Horse and bicycle travel is allowed on 22 miles (35 km). Facilities include a visitors center, over 100 campsites and over 100 picnic sites.Wetland and riparian plant communities are found along Ralston, Nott and Deer creeks and small ponds within the park. Ponderosa pine, Rocky Mountain juniper, Douglas fir and aspen are found in forested areas. Commonly seen wildlife includes mule deer, elk, black bear, mountain lion, Abert's squirrel and pine squirrel. Visitors also occasionally spot moose, which are increasing in the park. Common birds include turkey vulture, Steller's jay, Clark's nutcracker, mountain bluebird and mountain chickadee.

John Crow Mountains

The John Crow Mountains are a range of mountains in Jamaica. They extend parallel with the north east coast of the island, bounded to the west by the banks of the Rio Grande, and joining with the eastern end of the Blue Mountains in the southeast. The highest point in the range is a little over 3,750 feet (1,140 m).The name John Crow first recorded in the 1820s and comes from the Jamaican name for the turkey vulture. It has been suggested that previous to this, the range was known as the "Carrion Crow Ridge", after an earlier name for the vulture. In 1885 Inspector Herbert T. Thomas of the local constabulary began an attempt to reach the highest peak of the range, and in 1890 was successful, publishing an account in his book 'Untrodden Jamaica'.He requested the then governor Sir Henry Blake to consent that they be renamed the Blake Mountains, but admits in his book the change met with opposition. The new name did not stick and they remain the John Crow Mountains.In 1920 the explorer Scoresby Routledge claimed to have been the first person to have crossed the John Crow mountains, leading to an exchange of letters in The Times regarding Inspector Thomas's prior claim. The matter was settled by the Jamaican Surveyor-General, who decided that though Thomas had been the first to scale the highest peak, and explore the ridge in a north-south direction, Mr. Routledge had traversed the valley and further range beyond: and thus he first "actually crossed them from west to east".The John Crow Mountains are also home to the endangered Papilio homerus, the largest butterfly in the Americas. The most well-studied and understood populations of the dwindling species is found where the John Crow Mountains and Blue Mountains meet.

New World vulture

The New World vulture or condor family Cathartidae contains seven species in five genera, all but one of which are monotypic. It includes five vultures and two condors found in warm and temperate areas of the Americas. The "New World" vultures were widespread in both the Old World and North America during the Neogene.

Old World vultures and New World vultures do not form a single clade, but the two groups appear similar because of convergent evolution.

Vultures are scavenging birds, feeding mostly from carcasses of dead animals without apparent ill effects. Bacteria in the food source, pathogenic to other vertebrates, dominate the vulture's gut flora, and vultures benefit from the bacterial breakdown of carrion tissue. New World vultures have a good sense of smell, whereas Old World vultures find carcasses exclusively by sight. A particular characteristic of many vultures is a bald head, devoid of feathers.

Stone State Park

Stone State Park is a state park of Iowa, USA, located in the bluffs and ravines adjacent to the Big Sioux River. The park consists of 1,069 acres (433 ha) in Woodbury and Plymouth Counties near Sioux City, and overlooks the South Dakota-Iowa border. Stone Park is near the northernmost extent of the Loess Hills, and is at the transition from clay bluffs and prairie to sedimentary rock hills and bur oak forest along the Iowa side of the Big Sioux River. A variety of prairie plants can be found on the steep slopes and ridges, including yucca, penstemon, rough blazing star, silky aster, and pasque flower. Wild turkey, white-tailed deer, coyote, and red fox are found in the park. Birdlife includes the turkey vulture, barred owl, rufous-sided (eastern) towhee, and the ovenbird. Exposed bedrock in the park is composed of lignite, shale, sandstone, and limestone, and dates to the Cretaceous period; it is rich in marine fossils. The park contains many miles of hiking and equestrian trails, and is a popular destination for day visitors, overnight campers, mountain bike enthusiasts, and picnickers.

Tetlin National Wildlife Refuge

Tetlin National Wildlife Refuge is a dynamic landscape made up of forests, wetlands, tundra, lakes, mountains and glacial rivers bounded by the snowy peaks of the Alaska Range. This upper Tanana River valley has been called the "Tetlin Passage," because it serves as a major migratory route for birds traveling to and from Canada, the lower 48 and both Central and South America. Many of these birds breed and nest on the refuge. Others pass through on their way to breeding and nesting grounds elsewhere in the state. Migrants, including ducks, geese, swans, cranes, raptors and songbirds, begin arriving in the valley in April, and continue into early June. An estimated 116 species breed on Tetlin during the short summer, when long days and warm temperatures accelerate the growth of plants, insects and other invertebrates, providing a ready source of rich foods for nesting birds.

Tetlin Refuge also supports a variety of large mammals. Dall sheep dot the higher slopes while Alaskan moose feed upon the tender new growth that springs up in the wake of frequent lightning caused fires. Wolf packs, turkey vulture, Canadian lynx, tundra swan, red fox, peregrine falcon, coyote, beaver, golden eagle, marten, six species of owls, snowshoe hare, osprey, trumpeter swan, muskrat, bald eagle, river otter, grizzly bears and black bears and members of three different caribou herds range over the refuge.

Two of the six known humpback whitefish spawning areas in the Yukon River drainage are located within the refuge. Along with caribou and moose, these fish are important subsistence resources for area residents. Arctic grayling, northern pike and burbot are also found in the refuge's many streams and lakes.

The refuge has a surface area of 700,058 acres (2,833.03 km2), and is one of the larger (currently #18) National Wildlife Refuges in the United States, although, perhaps surprisingly, also the second-smallest of the sixteen in Alaska.


A vulture is a scavenging bird of prey. The two types of vultures are the New World vultures, including the Californian and Andean condors, and the Old World vultures, including the birds that are seen scavenging on carcasses of dead animals on African plains. Some traditional Old World vultures (including the bearded vulture) are not closely related to the others, which is why the vultures are to be subdivided into three taxa rather than two. New World vultures are found in North and South America; Old World vultures are found in Europe, Africa, and Asia, meaning that between the two groups, vultures are found on every continent except Australia and Antarctica (though Trigonoceps vultures have crossed the Wallace line).A particular characteristic of many vultures is a bald head, devoid of normal feathers. Although it has been historically believed to help keep the head clean when feeding, the bare skin may play an important role in thermoregulation. Vultures have been observed to hunch their bodies and tuck in their heads in the cold, and open their wings and stretch their necks in the heat. Vultures also use urine as a way to keep themselves cool by urinating on themselves.A group of vultures is called a kettle, committee or wake. The term kettle refers to vultures in flight, while committee refers to vultures resting on the ground or in trees. Wake is reserved for a group of vultures that are feeding. The word Geier (taken from the German language) does not have a precise meaning in ornithology; it is occasionally used to refer to a vulture in English, as in some poetry.

Zone-tailed hawk

The zone-tailed hawk (Buteo albonotatus) is a medium-sized hawk of warm, dry parts of the Americas. It is somewhat similar in plumage and flight style to a common scavenger, the turkey vulture, and may benefit from being able to blend into groups of vultures. It feeds on small terrestrial tetrapods of all kinds.


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