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Although the turkey vulture has a large turkeylike body and sporty red head it is not even distantly related to the turkey Instead turkey vultures-along with their cousins in the United States the black vulture of the South and East and the nearly extinct California condor-belong to a group of raptors called New World vultures Chromosome analysis shows that the New World vultures are actually more closely related to storks than to the vultures of Europe Asia and Africa Turkey vultures are remarkably successful birds They range everywhere from parts of Canada and much of the United States to South America At home in deserts prairies and woodlands they have even settled close to people in a number of urban and suburban areas Observed in flight the turkey vulture appears black with the underside of its wings grayish or silvery giving the birds a two-toned appearance They characteristically hold their wings in a slight V or dihedral thus aiding identification On rare occasions they hold their wings flat and eagle-like which if seen at a great distance may cause the birds to resemble eagles In flight the turkey vulture holds it s naked head crimson-red as adults and grayish-black as immatures downward in contrast to eagles which hold their heads forward The tail of the turkey vulture extends far beyond the rear edge of its wings They typically rock or tilt from side to side while gliding or soaring on updrafts or circling overhead Their occasional wingbeats are powerful and labored Turkey vultures are large birds with wingspreads of about six feet Their wings are long moderatly wide and have strongly slotted tips Typically the wings are held slightly above a horizontal plane when the bird is aloft This forms a characteristic dihedral which is very useful in making correct field identification Although turkey vultures use thermals they are more dependant upon updrafts when migrating along mountains The birds use the air currents skillfully and
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