How Big Are Turkey Vultures? (Wingspan, Size & More)

Turkey Vulture with large wingspan

The size of a Turkey Vulture is a fascinating topic for anyone interested in wildlife and birds. These birds, with their broad wings, are pretty hard to miss.

But it’s not just their size that’s remarkable, but also the role it plays in their survival. Their physical features, especially their wingspan, have a lot to do with how they live and survive.

In this article, we’re going to take a closer look at just how big Turkey Vultures are. So, keep reading to find out some cool facts about these birds and why their size matters so much to them.

How Big Are Turkey Vultures?

Large Turkey Vulture with wings open

Turkey Vultures are large birds with a wingspan ranging from 63 to 72 inches. That’s pretty wide when you think about their body size, which typically measures 25 to 32 inches in length and weighs just around 1.8 to 5.3 pounds.

Interestingly, there’s minimal difference in size between male and female Turkey Vultures, as they don’t exhibit sexual dimorphism.

That said, a friend of mine who studies birds shared an intriguing observation that aligns with Bergmann’s Rule. He mentioned that Turkey Vultures in the northern parts of their range are generally larger than those in neotropical areas.

This size variation is a perfect example of how these birds adapt to different environmental conditions, with larger body sizes being more common in colder regions.

Why Is Their Wingspan So Large?

Closeup of a Turkey Vulture flying with its large wings

Turkey Vultures are soaring experts, and their broad wings are perfectly suited for this task. Their large wingspan helps them take advantage of thermal currents, which are naturally occurring columns of rising warm air.

By circling in these thermals, they can glide effortlessly in the air for long periods without flapping their wings much.

This soaring ability is crucial for Turkey Vultures, being scavenger birds, as they spend a lot of time in the air searching for food.

Interestingly, Turkey Vultures are equipped with an extraordinary sense of smell. According to a study, this keen sense of smell is quite rare among birds and enables them to detect the faint scent of carrion at high altitudes.

So, while they’re up high in the sky, their big wings not only support their flight but also enhance their ability to scan vast areas using both their remarkable vision and sense of smell.

Can Turkey Vultures Fly?

Known for their soaring skills, Turkey Vultures are indeed capable of flight. They can glide through the air with minimal effort, thanks to their large wingspan.

When Turkey Vultures fly, they do something called “teetering.” This means they rock side to side in the air to catch warm air currents that lift them higher without much work.

This smart way of flying is very efficient and allows them to cover large areas without getting tired.

Meanwhile, to truly appreciate the grace and skill of Turkey Vultures in the air, check out this video showing them soaring effortlessly through the sky: 

Turkey Vultures Flying 3 HQ HD

Fun Fact: Turkey Vultures are not just skilled flyers; they’re also long-distance travelers. These incredible birds can cover up to 200 miles in a single day!

This impressive feat showcases their remarkable stamina and ability to glide efficiently over vast distances.

Are Turkey Vultures the Biggest Bird?

Turkey Vulture photographed in an island

While Turkey Vultures are quite large, especially when you consider their impressive wingspan of up to 6 feet, they are not the biggest birds out there.

The title of the largest bird in the world belongs to the Common Ostrich, which can weigh over 300 pounds and stand up to 9 feet tall.

When it comes to the largest wingspan, the Wandering Albatross wins. Their wings can stretch up to 12 feet across, which is twice as long as a Turkey vulture’s wingspan.

Now, if we’re talking about vultures, the Andean Condor is the biggest of them all. They have one of the largest wingspans of any land bird, reaching about 10 feet. That’s way bigger than a Turkey Vulture’s wingspan.

So, while Turkey Vultures are big compared to many birds, especially in North America, they are outmatched by several other bird species globally, including the Andean Condor in their own vulture family.

How Big Are Turkey Vultures Compared to Other Vultures?

Now that you know how big Turkey Vultures are, you might be curious about how they compare in size to their relatives.

To give a clearer picture of the size variations within the vulture family, here’s a comparison of some of the most common vultures:

Turkey Vulture25–32 in1.8–5.3 lbs63–72 in
Black Vulture22–29 in3.5–6 lbs51–67 in
King Vulture26–32 in6–10 lbs47–79 in
Rüppell’s Vulture33–41 in14–20 lbs90–102 in
Griffon Vulture37–43 in13–24 lbs90–110 in
California Condor46–53 in18–25 lbs98–114 in
Andean Condor39–51 in17–33 lbs102–126 in

This table shows that while Turkey Vultures are large birds, especially when it comes to their wingspan, they are not the largest among vultures.

As you can see, Turkey Vultures are actually on the smaller end of the spectrum compared to some of the larger species like the Andean and California Condors.

How Big Are Turkey Vultures Compared to Humans?

Turkey Vulture feeding on dead animal

When you compare Turkey Vultures to humans, the difference in size is quite interesting. A Turkey Vulture’s wingspan is around 63 to 72 inches.

This means their wings, when fully spread out, are bigger than some people! Imagine a person around 6 feet tall – that’s how wide a Turkey Vulture’s wings can stretch from tip to tip.

In terms of height, Turkey Vultures are much shorter than humans. They stand about 2 ½ feet tall. So, if you were to stand next to a Turkey Vulture, it would come up to around your waist.

Moreover, Turkey Vultures are relatively lightweight despite their large wingspan. They weigh around 1.8 to 5.3 pounds, which is much lighter than the average human.

So, what’s your favorite fact about the size of Turkey Vultures, or is there another vulture species that intrigues you? Please share your thoughts and any questions you have in the comments below.

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