Skip to page content
USDA Forest Service

Research & Development Treesearch

Treesearch Home
About Treesearch
Contact Us
Research & Development
Forest Products Lab
International Institute of Tropical Forestry
Pacific Northwest
Pacific Southwest
Rocky Mountain
Southern Research Station
Help - We Participate  Government Made Easy

Global Forest Information Service

US Forest Service
P.O. Box 96090
Washington, D.C.

(202) 205-8333

You are here: Home / Search / Publication Information
Bookmark and Share

Publication Information

View PDF (185.0 KB bytes)

Title: Exhumation of food by turkey vulture

Author: Smith, Harvey R.; DeGraaf, Richard M.; Miller, Richard S.;

Date: 2002

Source: Journal of Raptor Research. 36(2): 144-145.

Publication Series: Scientific Journal (JRNL)

Description: The success of Turkey Vultures (Cathartes aura) as forest scavengers is largely due to their highly developed sense of smell (Owre and Nothington 1961). Stager (1964) conducted a set of experiments with ethyl mercaptan which confirmed the ability of Turkey Vultures to locate odors when no visible object was associated with them. Turkey Vultures fly low over the forest canopy and can detect carrion on the forest floor entirely by smell. Carcasses that are completely hidden by foliage have been located as readily as visible ones (Houston 1987). Turkey Vultures evidently cannot detect animals that have recently died if hidden from view (probably because such carcasses do not yet emit a detectible smell) but are highly efficient at locating carcasses >1-d old and tend to reject those that are badly decayed (Houston 1986). The ability of Turkey Vultures to locate carrion hidden from view is well documented, though excavation of buried food is not reported in the review by Kirk and Mossman (1998).

Keywords: Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura, feeding, food, olfaction, scavenging

Publication Notes:

  • We recommend that you also print this page and attach it to the printout of the article, to retain the full citation information.
  • This article was written and prepared by U.S. Government employees on official time, and is therefore in the public domain.
  • This publication may be available in hard copy. Check the Northern Research Station web site to request a printed copy of this publication.
  • Our on-line publications are scanned and captured using Adobe Acrobat. During the capture process some typographical errors may occur. Please contact Sharon Hobrla, if you notice any errors which make this publication unusable.



Smith, Harvey R.; DeGraaf, Richard M.; Miller, Richard S. 2002. Exhumation of food by turkey vulture. Journal of Raptor Research. 36(2): 144-145.


 [ Get Acrobat ]  Get the latest version of the Adobe Acrobat reader or Acrobat Reader for Windows with Search and Accessibility

USDA logo which links to the department's national site. Forest Service logo which links to the agency's national site.