One of the most ubiquitous figures in North American skies, there is nevertheless very little understanding of the turkey vulture (Cathartes aura). This bird’s graceful flight is often mistaken for that of a hawk, and its name conjures unmerited images of death, filth, and cruelty.
Scientific knowledge of the Turkey Vulture is also limited. A number of studies have been conducted but there is much yet to learn about this unique bird.
The Turkey Vulture Society’s officers work on a strictly volunteer basis. We do not receive a remuneration from the society. So, why do we do it? We all share genuine desire to see the Society succeed as a strong and active resource for vulture researchers, observers, and enthusiasts throughout the Americas.
For more information please email us: VultureSociety@gmail.com
The Founders and the History of the Turkey Vulture Society:
On July 27, 2005, the Turkey Vulture Society, Inc., celebrated its eleventh birthday. How did it get started?
In April, 1994, in Tacoma, Washington, Karl Baker, a breeder of quarter horses in Fernley, Nevada, and Bill Kohlmoos, a mining company owner and ex-cattle rancher, from Reno, Nevada, were sitting on a restaurant porch enjoying a cup of coffee, Their wives were showing dogs in a large dog show. Karl told Bill about a Turkey Vulture roost near his ranch, and he described their interesting habits. He said he had met with university professors and wildlife experts and discovered a serious lack of knowledge about the bird. He did, however, learn that the U.S. Department of Agriculture had proved in the 1930s that the vulture’s digestive system killed the Hog Cholera virus contained in digested food. However, they had not learned how this was accomplished. Both men agreed that this knowledge could be extremely valuable for human medical research.
After the dog show closed, Bill and his wife toured on vacation through Montana, Wyoming, Oregon, Washington, and Arizona. In each state capitol they visited the state Fish & Wildlife Service and asked what they knew about the Turkey Vulture. Invariably, the answer was, “We don’t know anything. We don’t have any of them here, anyway. We just study the glamour birds like Bald Eagles and Sage Hens.” As Bill and his wife drove back into the open country they would frequently see TVs circling in the air.
At a national park in Arizona, Bill saw a TV roost near the headquarters office. He asked the park ranger about the TVs and the reply was, “Don’t know. We don’t have any here.” The roost was visible from the ranger’s office window.
Shortly after that Karl was watching the vultures in the roost near his ranch starting the day by soaring in circles as kettles in warm air thermals to gain altitude. Then at the same time, training flight of Navy fighter jets would fly through the area at a low level and high speeds. If they were to get a vulture in the jet engine there would be an immediate fatal crash. It had happened before in other locations. Karl contacted the Navy base commander and there was an immediate change in flight plans.
Karl and Bill then decided to organize a Society which was first a legal corporation, accepting donations and memberships. For it years it then functioned as a non- profit organization fueled by the passion and support of staff and all the readers which have always collaborated with stories and have shared pictures of these magnificent birds.
The Turkey Vulture Society is a non-profit scientific project. It has now closed its public services yet its original purpose is still very much alive in the form of this blog, hoping to help promote scientific studies of the life habits and needs of the Turkey Vulture, to protect the vulture and its habitat, and to inform the public of the valuable and essential services this bird provides to mankind and to the environment.