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Crazy Alphabet Challenge (with a twist): the letter U: Urubu

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The « Urubu » called a Turkey vulture or buzzard in English is a vulture or « vautour ». The territory of this red headed « Urubu » is located in the New World from the southern tip of South American to the south of Canada although lately it has even expanded its territory to slightly more Northern regions of Canada. With such a vast territory you can see a « Urubu » anywhere from sub tropical areas to deserts to shrub lands to the prairies and pastures.

Despite the fact that there are vultures in the Old World of Europe, Africa and Asia this New World vultures is not related to them. Rather it just evolved naturally all by its lonesome in the New World. In the next picture is an African vulture.

And here is a picture of the « Urubu » taken in Canada.

The « Urubu » is from the genus Cathartes of the greater family Cathartidae. This particular « Urubu » is called the red headed Turkey vulture. The head is rather small, has no feathers at all and only has slightly red wrinkly skin covering it. The beak is hooked down and the color of ivory. The body is covered with black feathers.

This particular bird is rather big with a wing span of 63 to 72 feet (160-183 cm). It measure anywhere between 24 to 32 inches in length (62-81 cm) and can weigh 1.8 to 5.3 pounds (.8 to 2.41 kg). It has basically no predators against him except for its eggs and chicks.

The « Urubu » just like most vultures is an excellent gliding type bird. It can actually glide for several hours without flapping its wings which are fully extended. So the Turkey vulture turns around in circle using the upward mass of hot air to go up and stay up while circling.

The « Urubu » is a scavenger necrophagous carrion eating bird. It finds its food with its eyes and his super keen sense of smell. His sense of smell can capt the ethyl mercaptan emanations (gases produced by decay) from the decomposition of dead animals. It can also eat decomposed vegetation such as pumpkin, fruits from different palm trees etc. With this affinity in eating dead carcasses this quite different bird or « Urubu » plays an important ecological role because it gets rid of carrion which would otherwise become a large breeding ground for diseases.

In the Quebec province (where I reside), the Turkey vulture’s diet consist mostly of small mammals such as woodchucks or groundhogs and the occasional domestic animal because its beak is too small to cut through the leather of bigger animals. The « Urubu » will however sometimes eat bigger carcasses if they have decomposed further or if they have open wounds brought on by other animals such as wolves or from a road accident.

In more tropical region, the « Urubu » will partner with other vultures such as the black headed « Urubu ». This last bird has a bigger and a stronger beak and can break through almost any leather. So these two different headed birds can collaborate together with the red headed « Urubu », who has a stronger sense of smell, finds carrion and the black headed « Urubu » opens up the carrion with its bigger and stronger beak.

But just like other opportunistic birds, the « Urubu » whether in North or South America can also frequent the many dumps spread along the two continents as its feeding ground.

And this is my presentation for the letter U. See you soon for the letter V.


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Written by HistoryGal

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    • I have only seen vultures on TV unless sometimes I see large birds way up in the sky who could be vultures but it is very hard to distinguish. I enjoyed writing about the urubu vautour as it is a necessary bird. Thanks for visiting and commenting and up voting.

  1. Amazing history of this bird. A familiar sight in the sky over much of North America is the dark, long-winged form of the Turkey Vulture, soaring high over the landscape.

    Most birds are believed to have a very poor sense of smell, but the Turkey Vulture is an exception, apparently able to find carrion by odor.

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