Turkey Vulture
(Cathartes aura)


Picture of bird
© Jukka Jantunen (flickr.com/photos/jukka_jantunen)
For additional photos and vocalizations, visit Dendroica. (Link opens in a new window.)

The Turkey Vulture breeds in southern Canada's farmland and open forest habitats. Breeding Bird Survey results reflect a dramatic increase of its population in Canada since 1970. Turkey Vultures, tolerant of human activity and flexible in their diet, appear to be adapting well to the changing North American landscape.


Main designations for the species
DesignationStatusDateSubspecies, population
IUCN (Global)Least concern2018 
Wild Species (Canada)Secure2015 

Population status

Geographic area or populationPopulation change relative to ~1970ReliabilityStatus in relation to goal
CanadaLarge IncreaseHighAt an Acceptable Level

Population estimate

Geographic area or populationPopulation estimate
Canada50,000 - 500,000 adults

Distribution maps


Migration strategy, occurrence

Short-distance migrant

Responsibility for conservation

Geographic areaResponsibility based on % of global population

General nesting period in Canada

Nesting period starts between mid-March and late April and ends between early September and mid-September, depending on the region. Before or after this period, the probability of an active nest is lower.

Conservation and management

Although Turkey Vultures have been trapped, shot, and heavily persecuted as a pest in the past, the species is now recognised as a beneficial scavenger (Kirk and Mossman 1998). Reasons for the recent dramatic population increase and northward range expansion are not well known, but are likely varied and related to a combination of increased phenotypic plasticity, the evolution of hyper-efficient flight, reduction of organochlorine and lead contamination from the environment, climate warming trends, increased deer populations, and increase in carrion as a results of expanding road networks and increased traffic volume (Peck 2007, Dodge et al. 2014).


Bird conservation region strategies

Environment and Climate Change Canada and partners have developed Bird Conservation Region Strategies in each of Canada’s Bird Conservation Regions (BCRs). In these strategies, selected species are identified as priorities for one or more of the following reasons:

  • conservation concerns (i.e., species vulnerable due to population size, distribution, population trend, abundance, or threats)
  • stewardship responsibilities (i.e., species that typify the regional avifauna or have a large proportion of their range or population in the sub-region)
  • management concerns (i.e., species that require ongoing management because of their socio-economic importance as game species, or because of their impacts on other species or habitats)
  • other concerns (i.e., species deemed a priority by regional experts for other reasons than those listed above or because they are listed as species at risk or concern at the provincial level)

Select any of the sub-regions below to view the BCR strategy for additional details.

BCRs, marine biogeographic units, and sub-regions in which the species is listed as a priority
RegionSub-region and priority type