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Difference Between Wild Turkey and Turkey Vulture

The numbers of animal species in the world exceed 7 million. It is hence safe to say that while some are not commonly found, even the common ones can be quite confusing. For instance, animals may share physical features with some distinct characteristics, which classify them in different species. For instance, the wild turkey and the turkey vulture share some features such as featherless redheads. They, however, have differences as outlined below. 

Wild Turkey

Native to North America, this is an upland ground bird that is similar to the domestic turkey. Their body feathers are either dark- blackish or grey with a coppery sheen, with growths on the heads, referred to as caruncles. They have three toes in the front and a rear-facing shorter toe in the back. The males, however, have a spur behind the lower legs and are also noticeably larger than the females. Wild turkeys are common in mixed conifer and hardwood habitats with orchards, fields, seasonal marshes and pastures. They also have many vocalizations including clucks, purrs, gobbles, yelps, whines, kee-kees and putts. 

Although the wild turkeys are relatively heavy, with an adult male an average of 37.1 lb, they are fast fliers and are also agile. They also have good eyesight which gets poor at night, hence may fall prey to predators. They are omnivorous and can be found climbing small trees and shrubs or foraging on the ground to feed, with a feeding preference in nuts, seed, roots, and occasionally insects and small reptiles. While the wild turkey plays a vital role in the ecosystem balance, it is also a major cultural part for many Native American tribes as the main meal in the Thanksgiving feast. The sub-species of the wild turkey include; Eastern wild turkey, Osceola wild turkey, Rio Grande wild turkey, Merriam Wild turkey, Gould’s wild turkey, and South Mexican wild turkey. 

Turkey Vulture

Also referred to as the turkey buzzard or the John crown in some areas, this is a species of a scavenger bird common in Southern Canada and South America. It has brownish to black body feathers and silver-gray flight feathers. The adult’s head is significantly smaller in proportion to its body, is red and has no feathers.  

It is common in open and semi-open areas, such as pastures, shrub lands, subtropical forests, and deserts.  The turkey vulture is a scavenger and feeds on carrion. With its good sense of smell and keen eyes, the bird flies low and identifies decaying animals. It, however, does not have a syrinx, which is the vocal organ in birds; hence its only vocalization is low hisses and grunts. You can always find it nesting in thickets, nests in caves or hollow tress and does not have many natural predators. The turkey vulture has 5 sub-species namely; C. a. aura, C. a. jota, C. a. meridionalis, C. a. ruficollis and C. a. septentrionalis. 

Similarities between Wild turkey and Turkey vulture

  • Both are dark, large and have featherless redheads
  • Both receive legal protection against illegal activities that could be a threat to their existence

Differences between Wild turkey and Turkey vulture

Habitats

The wild turkey is common in mixed conifer and hardwood habitats with orchards, fields, seasonal marshes and pastures. On the contrary, the turkey vulture is common in open and semi-open areas, such as pastures, shrublands, subtropical forests, and deserts.

Vocalization

The wild turkey has many vocalizations including clucks, purrs, gobbles, yelps, whines, kee-kees and putts. On the other hand, the turkey vulture does not have a syrinx, which is the vocal organ in birds; hence its only vocalization is low hisses and grunts. 

Diet

While the wild turkey is omnivorous with a feeding preference in nuts, seed, roots, and occasionally insects and small reptiles. On the other hand, the turkey vultures are carnivorous and feed on decaying animals, open lying fish and live insects. 

Flight 

While wild turkeys are fast fliers and are also agile, turkey vultures are not fast fliers. 

Species

The sub-species of the wild turkey include the Eastern wild turkey, Osceola wild turkey, Rio Grande wild turkey, Merriam Wild turkey, Gould’s wild turkey, and South Mexican wild turkey. On the other hand, the turkey vulture has 5 sub-species namely; C. a. aura, C. a. jota, C. a. meridionalis, C. a. ruficollis and C. a. septentrionalis. 

Wild turkey vs. Turkey vulture: Comparison Table

Summary of Wild turkey vs. Turkey vulture

The wild turkey is common in mixed conifer and hardwood habitats with orchards, fields, seasonal marshes and pastures. It is omnivorous with a feeding preference in nuts, seed, roots, and occasionally insects and small reptiles. On the contrary, the turkey vulture is common in open and semi-open areas, such as pastures, shrublands, subtropical forests, and deserts. It is carnivorous and feeds on decaying animals, fish and live insects. Both play an important role in balancing the ecosystem.  


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References :


[0]Image credit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turkey_vulture#/media/File:Cathartes_aura_-Santa_Teresa_County_Park,_San_Jose,_California,_USA_-adult-8a.jpg

[1]Image credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Wild_Turkeys.jpg

[2]Davis K & Davis B. Breathtaking Birds. New Leaf Publishing Group, 2006. https://books.google.co.ke/books?id=dlgqfNiSYvkC&pg=PT68&dq=Difference+between+Wild+turkey+and+Turkey+vulture&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiv0fSnl5joAhWkmFwKHbGEBIcQ6AEITjAF#v=onepage&q=Difference%20between%20Wild%20turkey%20and%20Turkey%20vulture&f=false

[3]Katie Fallon. Vulture: The Private Life of an Unloved Bird. University Press of New England, 2017. https://books.google.co.ke/books?id=xejeDQAAQBAJ&printsec=frontcover&dq=Difference+between+Wild+turkey+and+Turkey+vulture&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjZrZHJuJjoAhUVGsAKHTuZAvAQ6AEINjAC#v=onepage&q=Difference%20between%20Wild%20turkey%20and%20Turkey%20vulture&f=false

[4]Somerset Publishers. Encyclopedia of Iowa. North American Book Dist LLC, 1995. https://books.google.co.ke/books?id=BosAZB_qD-wC&pg=PA36&dq=Difference+between+Wild+turkey+and+Turkey+vulture&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiA64mVuZjoAhWKfMAKHRecBdk4ChDoAQhUMAY#v=onepage&q=Difference%20between%20Wild%20turkey%20and%20Turkey%20vulture&f=false

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