Saturday, June 11, 2011

King Vulture

Sarcoramphus papa
Maybe I'm just crazy, but I find the bright, colorful wattles and bald head of the King Vulture to be quite striking. The baldness even has an important function! It helps these large scavengers to feed on carrion without high risks of disease or infection.

King Vultures, which are native to Central and South America, are relatively unique among vultures because of their white coloring. Most other species are predominantly brown or black, but the King has a white ruff around the neck, and white body feathers with the exception of the wing tips and tail feathers.

Carrion makes up almost all of the King Vulture's diet. They can soar for hour at a time to locate a meal, and when they find it, other birds clear out! The Vultures are very large and have powerful hooked beaks that allow them to tear into carcasses better than any of the other scavengers.

King Vultures are probably monogamous, but their mating ritual has only been observed in captivity. No nest is built, instead the female lays a single egg in a stump or tree crevasse, and both parents incubate and care for the chick. It can take a while for a King Vulture to mature, they won't have their full adult plumage until they are 18 months old!

King Vultures

IUCN Status :  Least Concern
Location : South and Central America
Size : Body length up to 32in (81cm), Wingspan up to 80in (198cm)
Classification : Phylum : Chordata -- Class : Aves -- Order: Falconiformes
Family : Cathartidae -- Genus : Sarcoramphus -- Species : S. papa


  1. Woo! I love this bird! It seems astonishing to me that a vulture can have so much colour and such a nice, round eye. Vultures usually look so cruel and angry.

  2. These look to be the most lush of the vultures I have seen.


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