‘Nature’s clean-up crew’: How to spot turkey vultures as they return to Michigan

Look for birds soaring with wings raised in a V, making wobbly circles

Turkey Vulture (Michigan Department of Natural Resources)

Turkey vultures are coming back to Michigan after spending their winter where it’s warmer.

The large birds act like nature’s clean-up crew and scavenge on roadkill, according to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

So, how do you spot them from a distance? All About Birds suggests looking out for a bird soaring with its wings raised in a V and making wobbly circles.

Turkey vultures use their sense of smell to find fresh carcasses, cleaning up the countryside as they feast.

You can often find them in farm fields or hanging out next to the road. They probably won’t venture into your backyard unless you have a very large backyard and something has died.

Turkey vultures may vomit on a bird, animal or human if they get too close. It’s a defense mechanism and can be a powerful weapon.

Click here if you want to learn more about turkey vultures.

Read: Hey, birders! There’s a new birdwatching website, map available for the St. Clair-Macomb Birding Trail


Enjoy learning about birds? Check out the Michigan DNR’s Wildtalk podcast. The April episode is all about spring birding in Michigan.


Want to become a birder? Here are some resources

Michigan has more than 450 bird species throughout the state and there is a lot of information out there to get you started. You can check out one of Michigan’s birding trails, state parks, and recreation areas -- or even your local park.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources has plenty of resources on birding, you can view that here.

The Michigan Sea Grant has a free online video series called Michigan Birding 101, you can view that here.

Read: With bird flu cases growing, Michigan suggests limiting bird feeders this year


Sign up for Winged Wednesday text updates to learn more about the birds moving through Michigan and the best state parks to see them. You can sign up by texting “bird” to 51555 or by clicking here.



About the Author:

Kayla is a Web Producer for ClickOnDetroit. Before she joined the team in 2018 she worked at WILX in Lansing as a digital producer.