Turkey Vultures Taste Like Chicken?

Injured Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura) walking in a field.

Last week, I spotted a Turkey Vulture walking in a field of an elementary school. I rarely see vultures walking along the road. Looking at the strange way the feathers were ruffled on the bird’s left side, I assumed the bird had some sort of accident.

Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura)

Even As I moved closer, the Vulture simply hurried in the opposite direction. I watched the bird for ten minutes and it never took flight.

Turkey Vultures fascinate me for many reasons. They are large birds commonly seen soaring overhead. Their scientific name is Cathartes aura. “Cathartes” being Greek for  “purifier” or “cleanser”.  And “auror” being a latinized form of the Mexican Indian name for Turkey Vultures.

Turkey Vultures eat the dead things by the side of the road. In spring there are many dead animals along busy roadsides. There are red foxes, white-tailed deer, racoons, skunks, opossums and your garden variety cats and dogs.

The local Turkey and Black Vultures make these dead animals their meals.

Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura)

All birds can taste and smell, but the Turkey Vulture has the ability to hone in on the smells of rotting meat even when soaring high above the Earth.

That sense of smell makes the Turkey Vultures well adapted to foraging over forests. The Eastern half of North America is naturally covered with forests. A Turkey Vulture flying high above the tree canopy could smell a freshly rotting corpse even if the bird could not see it through the vegetation.

Engineers have used Turkey Vultures sense of smell to locate leaks in pipelines. The engineers pump chemicals that smell like rotten meat into leaking pipelines. Then they watch for the spots where the Turkey Vultures congregate.

How good could a Turkey Vulture taste? I doubt the Turkey Vulture would make a delicious meal. I imagine the meat would taste just awful. Turkey Vultures eat meat in various stages of decay and you are what you eat. And all vultures squirt liquid excrement onto their legs for the cooling effect of the evaporating liquid. Wearing black feathers all year around must be hot. I’ll skip the drumstick.

Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura)

Maybe they taste like bad chicken.


  1. Great pictures, Donna. I really do love Turkey Vultures, too. I read once that some native american cultures referred to them as ‘peace eagles’ because they only/mostly eat dead animals. It’s appropriate that they fly with their wings in a dihedral (‘V’ for turkey vulture or maybe a peace sign!).

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