A wake of turkey vultures circled above and waited on trees and fence posts for their turn on a cow carcass in a field near Lake Nebagamon on Thursday afternoon, July 9.

Turkey vultures have an extraordinary sense of smell. They have been known to be able to smell carrion from over a mile away, which is very unique in the bird world. The turkey vulture has the largest olfactory (smelling) system of all birds. They are the only scavenger birds that can't kill their prey.

A Turkey Vulture flies off of a fence post in a field along County Road B just outside of Lake Nebagamon Thursday afternoon, July 9. The birds were circling and eating a cow carcass in the field. (Jed Carlson / jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)
A Turkey Vulture flies off of a fence post in a field along County Road B just outside of Lake Nebagamon Thursday afternoon, July 9. The birds were circling and eating a cow carcass in the field. (Jed Carlson / jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)

A close inspection of their feet reminds one of a chicken instead of a hawk or an eagle. Their feet are useless for ripping into prey, but they have powerful beaks that can tear through even the toughest cow hide.

Two Turkey Vultures and a Raven share a perch on a downed tree in a field along County Road B just outside of Lake Nebagamon Thursday afternoon, July 9. The birds were waiting their turn to munch on a cow carcass out in the field. (Jed Carlson / jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)
Two Turkey Vultures and a Raven share a perch on a downed tree in a field along County Road B just outside of Lake Nebagamon Thursday afternoon, July 9. The birds were waiting their turn to munch on a cow carcass out in the field. (Jed Carlson / jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)