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GAP Analysis Predicted Distribution Map

Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura)

Species Code: CAAUR

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Breeding Range Map
The green area shows the predicted habitats for breeding only.
© NatureMapping Program

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Predicted breeding range

= Core Habitat
= Marginal Habitat


Turkey vulture photo

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Breeding Range Map
The green area shows the predicted habitats for breeding only. The habitats were identified using 1991 satellite imagery, Breeding Bird Atlas (BBA), other datasets and experts throughout the state, as part of the Washington Gap Analysis Project. Habitats used during non-breeding months and migratory rest-stops were not mapped.

NatureMapping observations map   Map with Breeding 
Bird Atlas records
Observations | Historic Gap points

Metadata (Data about data or how the map was made)


This species is common in the lower forest zones and the western steppe zones on the eastern Cascades. They are uncommon and local in lower forest zones east of the Okanogan River and south to Rock Lake. They are apparently absent from the Washington Blue Mountains, Olympic Mountains, and the outer coast as a breeding bird. They are uncommon in lower forest zones of western Washington east of the Sitka Spruce zone. The major part of the population is found along the lower slopes of the eastern Cascades. It nests in small caves or ledges on high cliffs in these regions.

In eastern Washington, the core areas of use were all forest zones below Interior Western Hemlock, plus adjacent steppe zones, in the East-Central Cascades and Southeast Cascades regions; in a broad band along the Columbia River in the northeast and locally along other northeastern valleys. In western Washington the core areas of use were those below Silver Fir. Areas for which there is little evidence of breeding were excluded. In forested zones, all habitats except development were good. In steppe zones, non-irrigated agriculture was also excluded.

The combination of rocky outcroppings and open dry forests is ideal for Turkey Vultures. In far northeastern Washington, their apparent rarity may be due to a shortage of high, rocky cliffs, or might reflect poor atlas coverage. It is unknown whether the few records from this region represent breeding birds or not. These hills and mountains are notably lower and smoother than the Cascades, and thus may provide limited nesting habitat (in the form of cliffs and caves). South along the channeled scablands, the Turkey Vulture can be found as a rare breeder, nesting in cliffs along deep coulees. In western Washington, the breeding distribution of the Turkey Vultures is a bit enigmatic. Vultures are often seen during the summer foraging in clearcuts and over forested areas, and there are suitable high rocky slopes and cliffs over much of the region. Confirmed breeding records are rare and Turkey Vulture nests are hard to find. In certain areas where rain shadows occur, like the northeastern Olympic Peninsula, the San Juan Islands, and northeast of Mount Rainier, Turkey Vultures are easily found. Their breeding status in southeastern Washington is uncertain, but it seems unlikely that they breed there. They have been mentioned as breeders along the Grande Ronde River and listed as summer birds in the sagebrush regions of the Blue Mountains. However, these statements have been contradicted. Other sources report them as migrants in southeastern Washington, and they are considered rare summer residents in northeastern Oregon.

Translated from the Washington Gap Analysis Bird Volume by Uchenna Bright
Text edited by Gussie Litwer
Webpage designed by Dave Lester