Offering a variety of habitat ranging from mature forest to open pasture, the Gettysburg National Military Park is home to many species of animals including amphibians, reptiles, mammals, and birds. This post focuses on the park’s turkey vultures.
The turkey vulture is a large soaring bird. Turkey Vultures use their acute sense of smell and sharp eyesight to locate carrion. Vultures do not kill; they are solely scavengers. The Turkey Vulture is a gentle and non-aggressive bird.
Best Places to See Them: Turkey vultures are very common at Gettysburg and can be seen throughout the park in the sky, riding the wind. These birds soar on thermals of warm, rising air. Soaring flight is much more energetically efficient than powered, flapping flight. They prefer mixed farmland and forest as habitat which explains their success in the Park. Good places to see them in trees include the summit of Big Round Top. They can also occasionally be spotted on the ground on cool mornings warming up in the sun with their wings outstretched. This is called “The Horaltic Pose.” This turkey vulture was photographed on Culp’s Hill near the Spangler Meadow.
You can distinguish the more common turkey vulture from the park’s population of black vultures because the Black Vulture has a white patch only at end of wings, has shorter wings, a short tail, a black head (although note that juvenile turkey vultures have gray heads; the red head appears at approximately one-year), does not soar with wings held up in the characteristic V, and it flaps much more frequently when flying.