Will a Turkey Vulture Attack My Small Cat or Dog?
Will a Turkey Vulture Attack Your Pet?
I was worried about this. We have four dogs, three of them quite small. I knew we had turkey vultures around our house because I've seen them sitting on our neighbor's roof, so I always kept an eye on our dogs while they were outside. A few days ago, I saw six of them circling around our neighborhood, diving and swooping. It made me worried, so I did some research.
Turkey Vultures Aren't Interested in Our Pets
It turns out that our American turkey vultures aren't interested in our pets at all—or in our kids, either, for that matter. They probably wouldn't even eat a dead dog or cat that's on the road.
If Turkey Vultures Don't Eat Pets, What Do They Eat?
I also found it very interesting that North American turkey vultures have a very keen sense of smell, while African and Asian vultures cannot smell anything. So when North American turkey vultures are looking for food, they can use both their keen eyesight and their smell.
- They prefer to eat herbivores, not carnivores or omnivores—in other words, they eat animals that eat plants, not meat.
- They'll even eat some vegetation.
- They won't go after anything that is moving, only animals that are lying still and appear to be dead.
- Our North American turkey vultures will turn their nose up at meat that is rotten if they can find meat that is fresh.
- However, if an animal has a tough hide, they do need to wait a few days until the hide has softened up enough for their weak beaks to penetrate it.
- They don't look for food at night, either. They have very poor vision at night.
Are Those Circling Turkey Vultures Circling a Dead Animal?
Possibly. Or they could be playing, searching for food, or gaining altitude for a long flight. Turkey vultures will notice other vultures circling and flock to the area. If a large, dead animal has been spotted, they may wait until there are enough birds to dispose of the carcass in a timely manner before descending (yuck!).
Other Facts About North American Turkey Vultures
- They are attracted to the scent of mercaptan, the gas produced by the beginnings of decay. This was discovered when the gas was used (don't know if it still is) by a gas company to find leaks in their gas lines. The company found that turkey vultures gathered where the mercaptan leaked out.
- Male and female turkey vultures look alike.
- Vulture poop is actually a sanitizer that is supposed to kill most bacteria and viruses.
- They are 25 to 32 inches tall.
- They have a wingspan of about six feet!
- They're usually quiet, but when feeding or at their nest, they will hiss or grunt.
- They are not aggressive.
- They are the most common and widespread vulture in the United States.
- At night, they often gather in large roosts. Their "nests" aren't actual nests, but rather indentations in the soil. They don't nest in trees.
- They'll also put their eggs in a crevice in rocks, hollow tree, or fallen hollow log.