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The turkey vulture: nature's vacumn cleaner

Making It Grow Radio Minute
SC Public Radio

The term red neck is usually of a pejorative nature but not with our native Turkey vulture. Both the turkey vulture and black vulture have bald heads which prevent the buildup of the decaying flesh they eat and possible negative consequences from that. But our Turkey vulture, both male and female, when mature, develops a red rather than the initial black color on its head.

I can’t find any evolutionary advantage suggested for this – it may simply be a sign of sexual maturity and help when time to select a mate – and they are faithful couples, incubating, feedings, and even caring for fledged offspring for an extended time. These birds in flight have a V-shaped wing structure easy to spot as they are usually seen soaring in the sky, teetering slightly. The turkey vulture is truly nature’s vacuum cleaner.

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Amanda McNulty is a Clemson University Extension Horticulture agent and the host of South Carolina ETV’s Making It Grow! gardening program. She studied horticulture at Clemson University as a non-traditional student. “I’m so fortunate that my early attempts at getting a degree got side tracked as I’m a lot better at getting dirty in the garden than practicing diplomacy!” McNulty also studied at South Carolina State University and earned a graduate degree in teaching there.