Sunday, July 20, 2008

Adopt a Bird Spotlight: Skinner (Turkey Vulture)

Skinner's Story

Species: Turkey Vulture
Hatched: 1993

Skinner was hatched at the World Bird Sanctuary and raised by our staff to help educate people about these magnificent birds of prey. As soon as he was old enough for training he learned how to fly from trainer to trainer and was soon thrilling audiences and participating in presentations around the country. He has taught thousands about the necessary role these magnificent birds play in the environment, and helped to dispel many of the myths and superstitions about his species.

Skinner has appeared at the Milwaukee County Zoo, Busch Gardens Williamsburg, Grant's Farm in St. Louis, and Dogwood Canyon in Branson, MO. For a time he was on display in a free flight enclosure at World Bird Sanctuary headquarters. In May 2006, Skinner joined our Office of Wildlife Learning staff in St. Louis and began traveling to schools, scouting events, sports shows, and even renaissance faires. He is always a hit wherever he appears when he soars just inches over the audience with his magnificent 5-foot wingspan fully extended.

Skinner is a great vulture to work with, and loves to spend time out in our weathering area with his wings spread out, catching the sun. This is a typical posture for a turkey vulture, which you may see if you spot one in the wild. This "sunning behavior" allows a photochemical change in the oils on their feathers that provides them with vitamin D.

Skinner does not work year round, but instead has a six month "vacation" each year when he spends his off time in a large free flight cage.

To adopt Skinner, simply click our donation button, make a donation of $100, and specify in your payment notes: Adopt-a-bird: SKINNER. Also include your name, phone number, and mailing address so that we can send you your adoption materials!

Every donation helps to feed, house, and provide medical care for the bird of your choice! Adopt-A-Bird Parents Receive:

  • *A personal visit with the bird you adopt!!!!! Call 636-861-3225 to set up a time for your personal visit.
  • * Certificate of Adoption
  • * Color photo of the bird you've adopted
  • * Sponsorship Card
  • * One year's subscription to Mews News (our quarterly newsletter)
  • * Life History and Natural History of the bird
  • * 10% Discount off WBS merchandise
  • * Invitation to Sponsors-only events like Camera Day
  • * Discounts on WBS Special Events
  • * WBS Decal

Natural History

turkey vulture
Cathartes aura

Description a large brownish black bird with a long tail and bare head and neck; often has a green or blue iridescence on the chest, shoulders, and back, which appears to turn purple on the wings and tail; wing linings and lower part of the tail are gray; head and neck lack feathers and sports wrinkled, red skin; eyes are a pale grayish-brown; beak is also pale

Sex: both sexes similar in size and color; female may be somewhat larger than male

Age: average in the wild 5 years; in captivity up to 20 years

Length: 24-28 inches

Wingspan: 64-72 inches

Weight: 3-1/2 – 5 lbs.

Habitat: varied; ranges from open plains to deserts, forests and jungles


Range: throughout the United States and southern Canada during warmer months; migrate to South America during winter months, often as far as Tierra del Fuego and the Falkland Islands

Behavior: the large wingspan allows them to soar on thermals for long periods, covering great distances; small groups have been observed performing ritualistic “dances” near breeding season; actual nest not built; will sometimes create a soft layer under the eggs with rotten wood or leaves; two eggs laid on the ground, in a cave, hollow log, or stump; both birds share all nesting duties; incubation is 38-41 days; chicks fed regurgitated food ; young fledge at 70-80 days;

Diet: almost exclusively carrion; may sometimes eat eggs, rotting fruits and vegetables, or even excrement of sea lions; one of the few birds with a sense of smell, and can detect carrion even under the canopy of forests

Vocalization: low grunts and hisses, audible only at close range

√ If threatened vultures will vomit on potential predators
√ A vulture’s digestive juices are strong enough to kill any type of bacteria known to man
√ Their “sunning” behavior, sitting on the ground with wings extended allows a photochemical change in the oil on the feathers that provides them with Vitamin D

Adopt A Bird spotlights are written and photographed by Gay Schroer.

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