Introducing our Turkey Vultures, “Diablo” and “Richard”Cathartes aura
We have two resident turkey vultures.
Richard hatched in 1974 and was raised in captivity. Because she developed a strong bond with people, she could not be released to join her fellow turkey vultures in the wild and has been at the museum since 1974.
Male and female turkey vultures look the same with females usually larger than males. Initially, caretakers believed Richard was a male. She proved her caretakers wrong, however, by laying an egg!
You can meet Richard in an aviary outside the main entrance of the museum.
Diablo was shot (this is against the law!) in Arizona and his right wing had to be amputated. He arrived at the museum in 1988 and lives in our exhibit hall.
Due to his wing loss and advancing age, Diablo has developed arthritis in both of his legs. To keep him comfortable, our veterinarian prescribes special medications and he has soft bedding and low perches in his enclosure.
Our turkey vultures are in their golden years
Animals in captivity usually live longer than their wild relatives. A wild turkey vulture might live 10–15 years; one in captivity could live well past 20.
Can you calculate how old our turkey vultures are? Diablo might have hatched sometime around 1986–1987; Richard hatched in 1974.
Fun for turkey vultures
Providing stimulating and challenging environments for our animal ambassadors is as critical to their well-being as having the right food and medical care. Enrichment enhances an animal's well being by encouraging the use of natural behaviors and interaction with its environment. This helps animals stay mentally and physically fit.
Most wild animals have active lives—they search for food, build homes, defend territories, find mates and escape predators. Animals in captivity have quite a different experience than their wild relatives—food and shelter are provided and many of the dangers of a wild life are non-existent.
To encourage natural behaviors, animal keepers provide a wide variety of enrichment for our animal ambassadors. Our turkey vultures enjoy many forms of enrichment such as finding hidden food, playing with toys and "socializing" with their human caretakers.
The turkey vulture is one of the only birds in North America with an acute sense of smell. It relies on both keen eyesight and a great nose to search out dead animals to eat. The red head is mostly unfeathered for a very good reason—carcasses can be very messy and a bald head is much easier to keep clean. After a little time in the warm sun, any meal "gunk" on the head dries and falls off.
Turkey vultures are common in the Bay Area. When soaring, this large, dark bird holds its wings in a "V" shape and might rock side to side.