Turkey Vultures: Don’t Get Too Close

It’s not a good idea to get too close to a turkey vulture in an attempt to get a close-up photo.

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Turkey Vulture on Penny Island

Turkey vultures are good at vomiting. They can project their vomit as far as 3 meters (almost 10 feet) to keep intruders at bay. And their vomit is particularly strong—smelly and highly acidic. Worse, turkey vulture vomit can contain bacteria that can be harmful, even deadly if ingested, to other birds and mammals.

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Almost within range….

In addition to smelling bad and being potentially poisonous, vulture vomit can be corrosive enough to burn skin.

Because of this defensive adaptation, vultures are quite tolerant of people getting near to them. When they’ve got food in their stomachs to vomit, they’ll often let a person walk (or paddle) close. (I’ve gotten pretty close myself slowly, definitely closer than 3 meters.) But it is not a good idea.

TV Winging It 1:19:16

You’re safer seeing them from a distance.

4 thoughts on “Turkey Vultures: Don’t Get Too Close

  1. Well, call me old fashioned but I won’t be asking out any Turkey Vultures for a drink so that we can ‘chew the fat’ together and catch up on things.

  2. I had no idea! They got so used to me when they visited my Freestone Ranch property they would often alight on the deck railing when I was quietly sitting feet away reading a book!

  3. Alden, that’s a good idea for a kid’s story, don’t you think? A conversation with a turkey vulture. Just imagine what they might tell us if they could talk. We might not have too much in common with them in terms of diet (though both humans and turkey vultures usually eat meat that’s been dead for a while), but what turkey vultures would say about flying would be of interest to me!

  4. Beachmama, I’m glad you didn’t get the vulture’s ire up. I’ve approached them too closely, but so far have not had the misfortune of being their target. I approach them very slowly and in a non-threatening way. Still, it pays to use the zoom lens and stay back a good fifteen feet or so to be on the safe side.

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