Turkey Vultures Need Love Too: How The Detroit Zoo Nursed One Lucky Turkey Vulture Back To Health

Not all of us have positive things to say about vultures in general. Their scavenging lifestyle leaves little…

Not all of us have positive things to say about vultures in general. Their scavenging lifestyle leaves little room for the warm and fuzzy feelings other wildlife may inspire in us.

But the fact is, these scavengers are essential to the healthy functioning of our environment. Their stomach acid helps them break down their food of choice – rotting carcasses. And having a natural way to remove these carcasses from the ecosystem means that contagious diseases left over from them are removed as well. 

Luckily, there are many turkey vultures throughout Michigan. And there’s one in particular who is quite a lucky little guy.

No one is quite sure how this particular turkey vulture ended up trapped in a stairwell at the Huntington Woods golf course in Michigan. It was found with no nest or sign of its parents nearby.

So the Detroit Zoo got involved. Bonnie Van Dam, the associate bird curator for the Detroit Zoological Society, noted that the bird didn’t have its flight feathers grown in yet. She believes it likely left its nest before it could safely return to it. 

After obtaining permission from the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, the staff at the Zoo tended to the rescued turkey vulture for several days. The turkey vulture stayed in the Detroit Zoo’s African Forest habitat, which is one that wild turkey vultures in the area are known to frequent along with the Zoo’s own vultures. 

The zoo staff’s aim was to get this turkey vulture strong enough to fly off with his own kind. As the days progressed, they noticed him going farther up the perches.  Said Van Dam, “One day, the bird was gone, and that’s exactly what we wanted to happen.” 

Zoo staff believe that this rescued vulture’s parents are among the 25 or so wild turkey vultures that frequent the Detroit Zoo in the winter, and have high hopes it will soon be reunited with its parents.

The Detroit Zoo is no stranger to rescued turkey vultures. They currently have a resident turkey vulture who was rehabilitated but unable to fly due to injuries. This turkey vulture lives with the flamingos at the zoo. 

If the Detroit Zoo can help it, there will be no turkey vulture left behind!

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