Interesting Facts About King Vulture

Interesting Facts About King Vulture

Image Source: "Sarcoramphus papa -National Zoo -Washington -USA-8a" by Eric Kilby - originally posted to Flickr as King Vulture. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons -

1. They are the third largest of the New World vultures.

2. It can grow to be 32 inches long. 

3. Unlike other vultures, which are dark in color, king vultures are creamy white, with darker tail feathers. The feathers around their heads and necks are blue, red, orange and yellow. 

4. The skin drooping over their beak, called a wattle, is a bright red-orange. Their beak is thick and strong, great for shredding flesh, and their long thick claws are good for keeping a tight grip on their dinner.
Image Source:"Sarcoramphus-papa-king-vulture-closeup-0a" by I, Adamantios. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons -

5. Their feet are short with blunt claws, used for walking rather than catching prey. 

6. These large birds live in the uppermost branches of emergent canopy trees anywhere from Mexico to central Argentina and Trinidad.

7. New world vultures are among the world’s largest flying birds with a wingspan of over 10 feet. 

8. Has one of the strongest beaks of the American vultures. 

9. As it flies above the rainforest canopy, the king vulture depends on its powerful sense of smell to locate food on the ground below.  

10. The Turkey and Black vulture will back off and let the King Vulture eat his fill. 

11. One of the world’s largest scavengers, they have powerful beaks that are excellently adapted for tearing open tough carcasses. 

12. They can often access meals that other vultures cannot. 

13. These birds glide on air currents, conserving energy while searching the forest or savanna below for the corpses of dead animals. 

14. After they eat, vultures will fly long distances to bathe in a river. 

15. In most birds of prey the female is larger than the male. 

16. Both parents incubate and care for the chick. 

17. The parent brings back food in it’s stomach and regurgitates it for the chick to eat. 

18. The ancient Mayan knew him and made him part of their art. He was called “oc”. 

19. According to some taxonomists, the king vulture is not a vulture at all, but is more closely related to the stork family.

20. They lack the syrinx (vocal organ for birds) so they are restricted to wheezes, grunts and whistles, but is mostly silent. 

21. At a carcass, they are dominant over other species. They have a greater strength, which means that they will often open carcases that others cannot.  Unfortunately others are then able to exploit them.

22. They are able to combat microbial enemies both with physiological adaptations and behavioral adaptations. 

23. Their digestive system is specialized to kill pathogenic bacteria.

24. The structures of the head allow them to remain surprisingly clean. 

25. They spend much of their time preening and sunning with outstretched wings. Sunshine helps to kill the dangerous parasites which may cling to the head and neck after feeding.


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