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Exhumation of food by turkey vulture


Harvey R. Smith
Richard S. Miller



Publication type:

Scientific Journal (JRNL)

Primary Station(s):

Northern Research Station


Journal of Raptor Research. 36(2): 144-145.


The success of Turkey Vultures (Cathartes aura) as forest scavengers is largely due to their highly developed sense of smell (Owre and Nothington 1961). Stager (1964) conducted a set of experiments with ethyl mercaptan which confirmed the ability of Turkey Vultures to locate odors when no visible object was associated with them. Turkey Vultures fly low over the forest canopy and can detect carrion on the forest floor entirely by smell. Carcasses that are completely hidden by foliage have been located as readily as visible ones (Houston 1987). Turkey Vultures evidently cannot detect animals that have recently died if hidden from view (probably because such carcasses do not yet emit a detectible smell) but are highly efficient at locating carcasses >1-d old and tend to reject those that are badly decayed (Houston 1986). The ability of Turkey Vultures to locate carrion hidden from view is well documented, though excavation of buried food is not reported in the review by Kirk and Mossman (1998).


Smith, Harvey R.; DeGraaf, Richard M.; Miller, Richard S. 2002. Exhumation of food by turkey vulture. Journal of Raptor Research. 36(2): 144-145.

Publication Notes

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