The Turkey Vulture: The ONLY Type of Vulture Found in Montana!

Have you ever wondered about the vultures that inhabit the vast landscapes of Montana? Well, look no further because the Turkey Vulture is the ONLY type of vulture found in this state! Despite their less favorable reputation in terms of physical appearance, these birds play a vital role in the ecosystem by feasting on carrion. Their unique adaptations, such as featherless heads and necks, help keep them clean as they feast on decaying meat. They also possess powerful stomach acid that allows them to consume potentially harmful substances without any issues. With their keen sense of smell, these vultures can detect dead meat from miles away. So, keep your eyes peeled and your nostrils open for these magnificent scavengers as they soar above Montana’s open countryside!

Vultures in Montana

The Importance of Vultures in the Environment

Vultures may not be the most attractive birds out there, but they play a crucial role in maintaining the balance of the environment. These scavengers are specialized in feeding on carrion, or dead animals, that most other predators are unable to consume. By eliminating rotting meat, vultures help prevent the spread of diseases such as tuberculosis and rabies. Their powerful stomach acid allows them to safely consume carcasses infected with harmful pathogens.

Characteristics of Vultures

Vultures have unique physical and behavioral characteristics that make them well-suited for their scavenging lifestyle. One noticeable feature of vultures is their featherless heads and necks. This adaptation helps them keep clean as they insert themselves into decaying meat. They also possess a highly developed sense of smell, which allows them to locate carrion from long distances. Additionally, vultures have the ability to regulate their body temperature by defecating on their legs, a behavior known as urohidrosis.

The Turkey Vulture: The ONLY Type of Vulture Found in Montana!

Species of Vultures in Montana

In Montana, there is one dominant species of vulture: the Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura). These birds are commonly referred to as Turkey Buzzards. They can be easily identified by their black feathers, bald red heads, and pinkish bills. The name “Turkey Vulture” comes from their resemblance to a Wild Turkey.

Turkey Vultures


Turkey Vultures in Montana are characterized by their black plumage, bald red heads, and pinkish bills. They have a wingspan of 63-72 inches (160-183 cm) and a length of 25-32 inches (64-81 cm). Despite their unattractive appearance, they are fascinating birds to observe.

Flying Style

When in flight, Turkey Vultures can be recognized by their distinctive flying style. They soar in the sky, making wobbly circles with their wings raised high enough to form a “V” shape. This flying technique helps them glide at low altitudes, allowing them to smell for food on the ground.

Feeding Habits

Turkey Vultures rely on their highly developed sense of smell to locate carrion. They can detect the scent of dead animals from up to 8 miles (13 km) away. These birds prefer to consume fresh carcasses and are known to be quick in reaching them after the animal’s death.


Turkey Vultures can be found in various habitats in Montana. They are often seen along roadsides, feeding on animals that have been hit by cars. They are also frequently observed soaring the skies in open countryside areas.


When threatened, Turkey Vultures may be too full of food to fly away rapidly. In such cases, they may vomit what they have eaten to reduce their weight and escape. This vomit, if directed at a predator’s face, can be blinding. It’s important to note that even if they miss their target, their diet consists of rotting meat, so the aroma may not be pleasant.


Turkey Vultures do not possess vocal organs, so their only means of communication is hissing. If you ever come across a Turkey Vulture, you may hear this distinct sound.

Fascinating Facts

One interesting fact about Turkey Vultures is that every year, the town of Hinckley, Ohio celebrates “Buzzard Day” on March 15th. This event marks the return of Turkey Vultures from migration for the summer. The community gathers to participate in various activities, including a pancake breakfast and counting the returning vultures.

The Turkey Vulture: The ONLY Type of Vulture Found in Montana!

Resources for Identifying Vultures

If you need assistance in identifying vultures, there are several resources available. The National Geographic Guide to the Birds of North America provides detailed information and illustrations of various bird species, including vultures. Additionally, the books Birds of Prey of the East and Birds of Prey of the West can help you identify vulture species specific to those regions.

Other Vulture Species in Montana

While Turkey Vultures are the main vulture species in Montana, there are other fascinating birds of prey found in the state. These include different types of eagles and owls. Additionally, Montana is home to a diverse range of bird species, making it a great destination for birdwatching enthusiasts.

The Turkey Vulture: The ONLY Type of Vulture Found in Montana!


If you have had the opportunity to observe vultures in Montana, we would love to hear about your sightings. Leave a comment below and share your experiences with these remarkable birds. For more information on birdwatching and guides to other bird species, be sure to check out our related articles. Happy birdwatching!

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