Most individuals find these birds unappealing or unattractive. However, their looks don’t matter. Vultures feed on dead animals that other predators won’t touch, making them vital to our planet and ecosystem.
In Michigan, vultures can be found in open and wooded environments during the late spring and summer months. In fact, there are two distinct species of vultures that have made Michigan part of their habitat.
In late spring, especially around the month of May, these big birds start their return to the Great Lakes state of Michigan. They typically come out of hiding after spending the winter in the south.
The two types of vultures in Michigan are:
- Turkey Vultures
- Black Vultures
2 Types of Vultures in Michigan
1. Turkey Vultures
- Scientific name: Cathartes aura
- Size: 25-32 inches long / 64-81 cm
- Weight: 2-5 lbs. / 0.8-2.4 kg
- Wingspan: 63-72 inches / 160-183 cm
Most of North and South America, including Michigan, are home to the bird species known as the Turkey vulture.
However, Michigan does not have a year-round residence for Turkey vultures. They stay in Michigan throughout the warmer months, but in the winter they fly south where it is warmer and there is less snow.
2. Black Vultures
- Scientific name: Coragyps atratus
- Size: 22-29 inches long / 56-74 cm
- Weight: 3½-6½ lbs. / 1.6-3 kg
- Wingspan: 51-66 inches / 1.3-1.7 meters
Black vultures search for food along open meadows and roads but prefer to perch and nest in thick woodlands. It may be uncommon to spot a black vulture in Michigan, but if you do, it will probably be during the summer.
Turkey Vulture vs. Black Vulture: Distinct Differences of Characteristics
The Black Vulture has dark feathers, especially on the head. The Turkey Vulture has a red head and white bill, while Black Vultures have dark bills with bony points. These distinct features make it easy to tell the two types of vultures apart.
Black Vultures are generally smaller birds (when compared to the Turkey Vulture). Despite being smaller they have large wings, short tails, and forceful wingbeats. Turkey Vultures are lean and longer birds that appear more wobbly during flight.
What do Vultures Eat in Michigan?
Vultures are a scavenger, which means they consume other dead animals including roadkill.
In Michigan, Black and Turkey Vultures wait for their next feast in trees by the sides of roadways.
These birds fly south in the winter, although they are highly apparent in the summer.
Due to their lack of predators, vultures do a huge service to Americans by removing dead animals. This makes roadways safer by reducing roadkill and preventing the spread of any viruses the animals may be carrying.
Will a Vulture Attack a Human?
Vultures do not pose a threat to humans because their diet consists primarily of dead animals.
These birds have no reason to harm people, so if you encounter one in your garden or backyard, you shouldn’t be concerned. Think of them as helping the ecosystem.
Also Read: Woodpeckers in Michigan
1 thought on “2 Types of Vultures in Michigan ”
I saw three vultures today February 1, 2023. They were eating a deer carcass.
It’s very cold today, single digits. Why did they migrate back to Southern Michigan so early?
Thanks for any insight on this.
I love turkey vultures, but am surprised by the early appearance of these guys today.