Kinsey – Turkey Vulture
Hatched: Spring 2009
Kinsey was admitted to the World Bird Sanctuary wildlife hospital on 11/1/09. At the time he was thin and emaciated and appeared to be unable to fly. He was found to have an old fracture of the left humerous that was already healed. He had apparently been surviving on roadkill that was easily obtainable, but would not have lasted long once winter set in, since Turkey Vultures migrate south during the cold weather. How he had survived this long was nothing short of amazing. Upon examination our vet determined that he would not be able to fly and gain altitude if released, so it was decided that his only option would be life as an education bird.
Once he gained weight and was again healthy, he began his training as an education ambassador for his species. At about the same time that we were trying to think of an appropriate name for this young bird, one of our longtime dedicated volunteers, John Kinsey, passed away suddenly. We decided that Kinsey would be a perfect name for this little fighter who had beaten all the odds.
Species: Turkey Vulture
Latin Name: Cathartes aura
Description: a large brownish black bird with a long tail and bare head and neck; often has a green or blue iridescence on the chest, shoulders, and back, which appears to turn purple on the wings and tail; wing linings and lower part of the tail are gray; head and neck lack feathers and sports wrinkled, red skin; eyes are a pale grayish-brown; beak is also pale
Sex: both sexes similar in size and color; female may be somewhat larger than male
Age: average in the wild 5 years; in captivity up to 20 years
Weight: 3.5-5 lbs.
Habitat: varied; ranges from open plains to deserts, forests and jungles
Status: Has adapted to living in proximity to humans, and is tolerated by villagers as a “clean-up” committee; Swahili name is Tai
Range: throughout the United States and southern Canada during warmer months; migrate to South America during winter months, often as far as Tierra del Fuego and the Falkland Islands
Behavior: the large wingspan allows them to soar on thermals for long periods, covering great distances; small groups have been observed performing ritualistic “dances” near breeding season; actual nest not built; will sometimes create a soft layer under the eggs with rotten wood or leaves; two eggs laid on the ground, in a cave, hollow log, or stump; both birds share all nesting duties; incubation is 38-41 days; chicks fed regurgitated food; young fledge at 70-80 days
Diet: almost exclusively carrion; may sometimes eat eggs, rotting fruits and vegetables, or even excrement of sea lions; one of the few birds with a sense of smell, and can detect carrion even under the canopy of forests
Vocalization: low grunts and hisses, audible only at close range
- If threatened vultures will vomit on potential predators
- A vulture’s digestive juices are strong enough to kill any type of bacteria known to man
- Their “sunning” behavior, sitting on the ground with wings extended allows a photochemical change in the oil on the feathers that provides them with Vitamin D