A magnificent Turkey Vulture flying over Pocasset, Massachusetts. The Turkey Vulture's head has no feathers because it eats carrion, which is teeming with bacteria. Feathers would become encrusted with it's food (and the bacteria), but his bald head stays relatively clean, and the residue soon gets baked away in the sun.
Turkey Vultures are enormous birds, with a six foot wingspan. They are also one of the most graceful birds in the world when in flight. They soar for hours without ever flapping their wings. They huge, board-like wings can be confused with a American Eagle when seen in silhouette, but the Turkey Vulture's wings are held in a "V-shape," or dihedral.
The Turkey Vulture can glide for over 6 hours at a time without flapping a wing, but they are not at all graceful when taking off from the ground. These large birds require a lot of energy and a lot of vigorous wing flapping to get off the ground.
Many people incorrectly call these birds "buzzards", and fear them or think they are dirty and spread diseases because they eat dead meat. In reality, the Turkey Vulture prevents the spread of disease by cleaning up carcasses that would normally breed masses of dangerous pathogens.
The Turkey Vulture is so named because it's head looks the the head of a turkey. This magnificent bird was not present in Massachusetts 100 years ago. Today, this bird can be seen anywhere in the state. It only recently moved onto the cape, where it has been confirmed as breeding according to the Mass Breeding Bird Atlas 2.