How Big Are Turkey Vultures? (Wingspan + Size)

How Big Are Turkey Vultures? (Wingspan + Size)

The vulture family Cathartidae contains some truly gargantuan birds like the epic Andean and Californian condors. The mere presence of a vulture might hint that death is nearby, but despite their rather brutish form, they’re actually intelligent and intuitive birds with exceptional senses of sight and smell.

Turkey Vultures are commonly known as Turkey Buzzards, these majestic birds are pretty hard to miss in the sky, due to their impressive wingspans, so, let's get into it, how big are Turkey vultures?

Turkey vultures are large birds of prey, measuring 62 to 81cm (24 to 32 in) long, with a wingspan of 160 to 183cm (5.2 to 6.1ft). They weigh between 0.8 to 2.41 kg (1.8 to 5.3lb). Turkey vultures are larger to the north of their range in the USA and tend to be smaller in South America at the south of their range.

Males are similarly sized to females and show practically no sexual dimorphism. In addition, Turkey vultures have extremely broad wings that help them soar at high altitudes of some 20,000ft, where they hover for many hours in search of carrion.

Of course, there is much more to learn about this fascinating large vulture - read on to find out!

Perched Turkey Vulture / Buzzard with spread wings

Perched Turkey Vulture / Buzzard with spread wings

Turkey Vulture wingspans

Turkey vultures have massive 6ft wingspans. Their wingspan is very large relative to their body size and weight. For a bird that weighs between 1 to 2.4kg, a 6ft wingspan is very large indeed.

Moreover, Turkey vulture wings are extremely deep and broad, which makes them look imposing when in flight.

Turkey vultures have massive wings to help them soar high above the ground. They use their incredible senses of sight and smell to identify carrion from a great height of up to 20,000ft. This enables them to scan vast landscapes for eligible targets before diving in to feed.

Since Turkey vultures are so light despite having such massive wings, they expend barely any energy flying at this height. By soaring on thermal currents, a Turkey vulture can cover some 200 miles a day without even flapping its wings.

Turkey Vultures have impressive 6ft wingspans

Turkey Vultures have impressive 6ft wingspans

Turkey Vulture weight

Turkey vultures are light for their size, weighing between 1 and 2.4kg. For comparison, a Bald eagle’s wingspan is only marginally larger at around 6.4ft, yet they weigh around 7 to 9kg - many times heavier than the Turkey vulture.

The Turkey vulture’s lightweight and enormous wingspan enable it to soar above the ground with little effort.

Turkey vultures differ in size and weight across their range. Individuals that live further north in the USA are larger than those that live south in South America.

A study of 124 birds from Florida found that they weighed around 2kg (4.4lb) on average, while a study of 65 and 130 birds from Venezuela found them to weigh approximately 1.22 and 1.45kg (2.7 and 3.2lb).

This is broadly continuous with Bergmann’s Rule, which states that organisms that live further from the equator are generally larger and heavier to protect them from lower temperatures.

Close up portrait of a Turkey Vulture

Close up portrait of a Turkey Vulture

How big are Tukey vultures compared to a human?

A Turkey vulture’s wingspan is 6ft - larger than the average human is tall.

Turkey vultures have massive wingspans that equal that of many eagles. With a 6ft wingspan, a flying Turkey vulture certainly looks large and imposing.

However, their bodies are not especially large and they weigh just 0.8 to 2.41 kg (1.8 to 5.3lb), which isn’t much for a 6ft-wingspan bird. Turkey vultures also have small heads.

How big is the biggest turkey vulture?

At their maximum size, Turkey vultures measure around 81cm long with a wingspan of roughly 6ft and weigh about 0.8 to 2.41 kg (1.8 to 5.3lb). They measure around 2.6ft long. That’s pretty large - and Turkey vultures certainly look large when they’re soaring in the sky.

Turkey Buzzard soaring through the sky

Turkey Buzzard soaring through the sky

How big of an animal can a turkey vulture pick up?

Turkey vultures don’t generally pick up their prey. Instead, they detect prey from sight or smell and swoop in to eat it in situ. Turkey vultures have weak claws too, which are also quite blunt.

Rather than clawing and picking up their prey, Turkey vultures tuck in with their large, powerful bill. Like other vultures, they’re primarily carrion feeders and dine upon the corpses of dead animals.

Why are turkey vultures so big?

There are some true behemoths in the vulture family, like the Californian and Andean condors, which are among the most giant flying birds in the world.

While the Turkey vulture doesn’t quite compare to these giants, it’s still a large bird with a massive 6ft wingspan. Its wings are also vast, making it look rather imposing in flight.

The large wingspan that a turkey vulture has, coupled with their ability to utilise thermals, allows them to soar pretty effortlessly at impressive heights of up to 20,000 ft (and over).

Considering turkey vultures have huge wingspans, their bodies are proportionately small and light, meaning that this impressive soaring requires a lot less energy.

A pair of turkey vultures perched together

A pair of turkey vultures perched together

Turkey Vultures compared to other bird species

There are many birds in the 6ft+ wingspan bracket, but few exceed that. Birds similarly sized to Turkey vultures include:

  • Great egret (5.6ft)
  • Great Blue heron (6.2ft)
  • Giant petrel (6ft)
  • Wood stork (6ft)
  • Bald eagle (6.5ft)
  • Osprey (6ft)
Turkey Vulture and Raven in flight

Turkey Vulture and Raven in flight


Are Turkey vultures dangerous?

Turkey vultures aren’t dangerous. These carrion eaters mostly forage their food from dead corpses. While they’re large, imposing birds, their bodies are actually relatively small, and their claws are weak and blunt. Turkey vultures are technically birds of prey, but they very rarely hunt living prey.

Is a turkey vulture bigger than an eagle?

Turkey vultures have a similar wingspan to a Bald eagle, albeit around half a foot smaller. Their wings are broad too, which makes them look pretty massive.

But overall, Turkey vultures aren’t as large as Bald eagles. In fact, a large Turkey vulture will weigh around 2.5kg (5.5lb), whereas a large Bald eagle can weigh up to 9kg (20lb)!

Can Turkey vultures pick up small dogs?

Turkey vultures don’t hunt live prey and pose no danger to small dogs - so long as they’re alive and well! Compared to eagles, hawks, and other birds of prey that hunt live prey, Turkey vultures pose no threat to pets.

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