There are two species of vultures found in Virginia: the turkey vulture and the black vulture. Vultures (some call them buzzards) are scavenging birds that feed on the remains of dead animals.
The vulture has been perceived as a loathsome creature because of its disgusting feeding habits. We now know, however, that these somewhat unattractive birds play an important role in the removal of animal carcasses from our forests, fields, parks and highways.
They locate food by a combination of sight and scent and are protected by state and federal laws.
The turkey vulture is a large brown-black bird with a featherless red head, long tail and a wingspan of up to six feet.
The black vulture is a smaller cousin with a black featherless head, shorter tail, white wing patches and a wingspan of black vulturefour to five feet.
Young turkey vultures have a black head their first year and can be confused with adult black vultures.
By having no feathers on their heads both birds are able to stick their heads inside a carcass without fear of contaminating feathers and creating conditions for bacterial growth.
The birds on display at the Virginia Living Museum are both adults and came from a wildlife rehabilitator in Virginia Beach. They are non-releasable due to wing injuries.