Difference Between Wild Turkey and Turkey Vulture

According to the survey in 2020, there are 11,158 documented species of birds in existence, many of them endangered. Wild Turkey and Turkey Vulture are often assumed to be closely related.

This misinterpretation may be due to the similarity in their names. These two species do not have much in common.

Wild Turkey vs Turkey Vulture

The main difference between Wild Turkey and Turkey vultures is that the diet of the two species is in contrast. The former searches its surroundings for nuts, seeds, and insects. The Turkey Vulture is not a herbivore and feeds on animal carcasses and small insects. There are no physical similarities between the species.

Wild Turkey vs Turkey Vulture

The scientific name of a Wild Turkey is Meleagris gallopavo. They are the heaviest under the Galliformes order of classification. These birds live in grasslands, swamps, and even forests.

On average, adult males usually weigh around 18 pounds while females are much smaller. They weigh between 8 to 10 pounds.

Turkey vultures have an average height of two and a half feet. Despite their tall stature, they weigh only around 3 pounds. They live in deserts, shrublands, plains, savannas, woodlands, and rocky mountainous regions.

Turkey Vultures are not birds of prey. They do not hunt but scavenge on rotting carcasses.

Comparison Table Between Wild Turkey and Turkey Vulture

Parameters of ComparisonWild TurkeyTurkey Vulture
LifespanIts life expectancy is 3-4 years.Its life expectancy is 20-24 years.
NativeNative to North AmericaNative to southern Canada and the Caribbean.
AppearanceThey have dark iridescent plumage with fan-like tails.They have pale bills and are dark brown.
DietThey are omnivores.They are carrions.
CharacteristicThey are ground-dwelling birds.They are birds of flight.

What is Wild Turkey?

Wild Turkeys are agile and can fly short distances, close to the ground. Males are characterized by their red heads, throat, and neck.

Ancient civilizations like the Mayans considered these birds to be representations of the trickster god. In Mexico, the importance of Wild Turkeys as a food source was recognized and the domestication of this species began.

They are found in abundance in the wild in the US, eliminating the need for domestication. The reference to turkey brings forth the image of Thanksgiving.

This is a national holiday celebrating the harvest and ritual thanksgiving meal places the turkey as the menu’s focus.
Based on minute differences in plumage, five subclasses have been identified.

They nest on the forest floors, in thickets and bushes. The shallow nests are only an inch deep and are lined with foliage.
A clutch refers to the number of eggs in a single nesting. The clutch of a Wild Turkey has between four to seventeen eggs.

For decades after 1966, there was a sharp decline in the Wild Turkey population, attributed to unchecked hunting and loss of habitat. The countermeasure of introducing this species to alternative habitats proved to be a success in restoring the population.

What is Turkey Vulture?

The word “Vulture” is of Latin origin and means “to tear”.Turkey Vultures feed on dead and decaying animals. They have a heightened sense of smell allowing them to track food.

Their powerful beaks can rip into the toughest hides with ease. The similar physical trait of redheads that the Turkey Vulture shares with Wild Turkey play a key role in their naming.

They have long wingspans of about six feet. The Turkey Vultures are seen as a symbol of death. There are other interpretations as well. Some see them as signs of healing, while others allude to them as a sign of rebirth.

The clutch of a Turkey Vulture is small, with only one to three eggs. Unlike other birds, they do not build nests. Instead, they perch on ledges, dense vegetation, occupy caves and crevices.

This species can fly up to 6000 meters high. The iconic V position of their wings during flight helps them stabilize. They can remain in the air without flapping their wings for six hours.

They often spread out their wings in a horaltic pose. This pose has a triad of purposes. It helps dry the wings, warms the body, and gets rid of bacteria.

Main Differences Between Wild Turkey and Turkey Vulture

  1. The average lifespan of a Wild Turkey is less than ten years. Domesticated birds or those not living in a natural habitat can survive up to twelve years. The Turkey Vulture can live up to forty-five years in captivity.
  2. There are two species of Wild Turkey. One is native to America and the other to Mexico. Turkey vultures are found in steppe zones and forests.
  3. Wild Turkeys have striped feathers and curved bills. Turkey vultures appear heavy and are posed in a perpetually hunched stance.
  4. While Wild Turkeys rarely feed on small reptiles and insects, the diet of a Turkey Vulture is completely meat-based.
  5. While Wild Turkeys can fly, they generally do so in short bursts. The Turkey Vultures can fly at a speed of sixty miles an hour.
Difference Between Wild Turkey and Turkey Vulture

Conclusion

Another unique point to note is the sounds that they produce. Wild Turkeys have a vast and diverse range of sounds that they produce. It includes clucks, putts, tree calls, cackles, and gobbling. The sounds made by the Turkey Vulture are limited to hissing and grunting rasps.

Wild Turkeys are polygamous and have several partners during the mating season. Turkey Vultures have a single mate for life and are monogamous.

There have been no records of diseases in poultry and livestock contracted from Wild Turkeys. The stigma against Turkey Vultures stemmed from the belief that they spread diseases, though this was later disproved. Even if the bird consumes infected food, its strong digestive system destroys the bacteria.

Wild turkeys have non-existent olfactory senses. The Turkey Vulture has a well-developed sense of smell, allowing it to identify smells up to five miles.

Currently, the Wild Turkey population is approximately six million. They are not an endangered species. The Turkey Vulture population is estimated to be over four million. Protected by federal laws, they cannot be hunted without government authorization.

References

  1. https://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=oVICEKm1U04C&oi=fnd&pg=PR7&dq=wild+turkey&ots=ak3IaiLhro&sig=fl7apDvSO4g7NOEHSXkK3oIAc0M
  2. https://academic.oup.com/auk/article-abstract/103/3/586/5191488

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