The Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura) is a bird found throughout most of the Americas. It is 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. One of three species in the genus Cathartes, in the family Cathartidae, the Turkey Vulture is the most widespread of the New World vultures, ranging 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.
The Turkey Vulture is a scavenger and feeds almost exclusively on carrion. It finds its meals using its keen vision and sense of smell, flying low enough to detect the gasses produced by the beginnings of the process of decay in dead animals. 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. It nests in caves, hollow trees, or thickets. Each year it generally raises two chicks, which it feeds by regurgitation. It has very few natural predators. In the United States of America, the vulture receives legal protection under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918.