Meet Ichabod And Olive, The Aquarium's New Turkey Vultures!

October 31, 2009

The Oregon Coast Aquarium introduced two 18 month-old turkey vultures to their new permanent home Friday morning. The introduction went without a hitch under light rain as CJ McCarty, Aquarium Curator of Birds carried them on her glove to their newly constructed aviary. Today the names, “Ichabod” and “Olive” were selected from public entries in a “Name the Turkey Vulture” contest. The turkey vultures, male and female siblings, are rescued birds from the Raptor Education group in Antigo, Wisconsin.

 “We are doing our best to minimize stressors as they become acclimated to their new home at the Aquarium,” said CJ McCarty, Aquarium Curator of Birds. “We are really impressed with how adaptable they are. They seem very comfortable in their new home.”  McCarty is excited about the new exhibit. “Turkey vultures are intelligent and gregarious birds, which will make them both challenging and rewarding to work with.” said McCarty.

McCarty said the goals of the exhibit are to make people aware of these amazing birds, their unique biology, and the important role they play in our coastal ecosystem. Visitors will learn how to identify a turkey vulture and observe its behaviors and physical characteristics. The new exhibit was made possible by a generous grant from Trust Management Services.

Often mistaken for an eagle or hawk, the flight of the turkey vulture, Cathartes aura, is unmistakable to the trained eye. Its genus name, Cathartes, means “purifier,” and the bird earns its name by keeping its habitat cleaned up. The Oregon Coast Aquarium’s new Turkey Vulture exhibit will spotlight these fascinating birds and demonstrate their important role in our environment.

As nature’s ultimate recycler, the turkey vulture is a scavenger, using its keen eyesight and exceptional sense of smell to find food. It flies low enough to detect ethyl mercaptan, a gas produced by decaying carrion.  It takes an amazing digestive system to digest this diet. The uric acid is so strong that it kills viruses and bacteria, helping to keep disease out of the environment and protecting other animals and people from getting sick.

The most abundant of all scavenging birds of prey, the turkey vulture is also one of the largest birds in North America, with a wingspan of up to 6 feet and a body length of 25 to 32 inches. It has no syrinx (bird voicebox) and only emits hissing or grunting sounds. Gliding on updrafts, it rarely needs to flap its wings more than a few times in a row. It rises above storms by riding on drafts of warm air, or thermals.