Species In This Category

About Vultures

Vulture is the name given to two groups of scavenging birds of prey: the New World vultures, including the Californian and Andean Condors; and the Old World vultures, including the birds that are seen scavenging on carcasses of dead animals on African plains. Research has shown that some traditional Old World vultures (including the Bearded Vulture) are not closely related to the others, which is why the vultures are to be subdivided into three taxa rather than two. New World vultures are found in North and South America; Old World vultures are found in Europe, Africa and Asia, meaning that between the two groups, vultures are found on every continent except Australia and Antarctica.

Vulture Facts

  1. One particular characteristic of many vultures is a bald head, devoid of normal feathers. Although it has been historically believed to help keep the head clean when feeding, research has shown that the bare skin may play an important role in thermoregulation. (1)
  2. A group of vultures is called a wake, committee, venue, kettle, or volt. The term kettle refers to vultures in flight, while committee, volt, and venue refer to vultures resting in trees. Wake is reserved for a group of vultures that are feeding.(2)
  3. Studies of the DNA of New World Vultures analyzed by John Avise, William Nelson and Charles Sibley at the University of Georgia indicate that they are more closely related to storks than birds of prey (raptors). Old World Vultures are classified as Falconiformes (diurnal birds of prey) and are not closely related to New World Vultures, either. (3)
  4. Vulture stomach acid is exceptionally corrosive, allowing them to safely digest putrid carcasses infected with Botulinum toxin, hog cholera, and anthrax bacteria that would be lethal to other scavengers.(4)
  5. New World vultures often vomit when threatened or approached. Contrary to some accounts, they do not "projectile vomit" on their attacker as a deliberate defense, but it does lighten their stomach load to make take-off easier, and the vomited meal residue may distract a predator, allowing the bird to escape.(5)
  6. New World vultures also urinate straight down their legs; the uric acid kills bacteria accumulated from walking through carcasses, and also acts as evaporative cooling. (6)

Vulture Sources

  1. Source: Ward, J.; McCafferty, D.J.; Houston, D.C.; Ruxton, G.D. (April 2008). "Why do vultures have bald heads? The role of postural adjustment and bare skin areas in thermoregulation". Journal of Thermal Biology 33 (3): 168–173. doi:10.1016/j.jtherbio.2008.01.002
  2. Source: Rodrigues, Ernie J. (May 6, 2007). "Groups of Animals". Saratoga, California: West Valley College. Archived from the original on September 21, 2009. Retrieved February 15, 2013.
  3. Source: Avise, J. C., Nelson, W. S., & Sibley, C. G. (1994). DNA sequence support for a close phylogenetic relationship between some storks and New World vultures. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 91(11), 5173–5177. Accessed January 8, 2016.
  4. Source: Caryl, Jim (September 7, 2000). "Re: How come that vultures can resist dangerous toxins when feeding on carcass". MadSci Network. Retrieved February 15, 2013.
  5. Source: "Turkey Vulture Facts." Turkey Vulture Society. Retrieved 2012-12-01.
  6. Source: Conger, Cristen. "Why is it a bad idea to scare a vulture?". HowStuffWorks. Retrieved February 15, 2013.