Aquarium Invites You To Name That Turkey Vulture!

October 14, 2009

The Oregon Coast Aquarium constructed a new aviary for some unusual new inhabitants and is asking for public input on naming them. The new Turkey Vulture exhibit will open at the Aquarium October 30, and a turkey vulture naming contest is being held to select names for the birds. The Aquarium’s aviculturists will choose two names from public entries, for the two rescued and rehabilitated birds, arriving from Wisconsin this month. Entry forms are in the Aquarium lobby.

CJ McCarty, Aquarium Curator of Birds, 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. “We’ll do our best to minimize stressors as they are getting acclimated to their new home at the Aquarium.” 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.

The Oregon Coast Aquarium is hosting the Halloween Harvest Festival celebration October 25–31, with the goal of collecting food donations for Food Share of Lincoln County. The week-long celebration will culminate with a weekend of activities and the opening of the Aquarium’s new Turkey Vulture Exhibit. For details, click on: Halloween Harvest Festival.