Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture

Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture

Details About The Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture

  • General Information

    Lesser Yellow Headed Vultures have black to brown iridescent plumage, with white on the undersides of their wings similar to that of the Turkey Vulture. Their bare heads are orange, yellow, red, and sometimes even have blue areas. Immature birds have browner feathers, a dull head, and a white nape or headband.

    Latin Name: Cathartes burrovianus
    Class: Aves
    Order: Accipitriformes
    Family: Cathartidae
    Length: 21-26 inches
    Weight: 2.1-3.4 pounds
    Wingspan: 59-65 inches
    Common Name: Savannah Vulture
    Etymology: kathartes (Greek) - “a purifier”; vulturus (Latin) - “tearer"

  • Flight, Voice & Habitat

    When soaring, the species looks unstable in the air, similar to Turkey Vultures. Thought to not soar as high as other vulture species.

    The Lesser Yellow Headed Vulture, like most vultures, is usually silent. This species makes hissing and grunting sounds due to its lack of syrinx.

    This vulture species prefers open savanna, grasslands, swamps, wetlands, and deforested areas.

  • Nesting

    Lesser Yellow Headed Vultures do not construct a nest. Females will lay eggs on the ground, in caves, or in tree hollows. They typically have 2 eggs in a clutch.

  • Distribution

    These birds inhabit eastern Mexico south through Central America and parts of South America east of the Andes

  • Food

    The Lesser Yellow Headed Vulture scavenges for carrion and is thought to have a sense of smell similar to the Turkey Vulture. It will will defer to larger Turkey and King Vultures at a carcass site.

  • Current Resident Birds

    Inca, the Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture came to Carolina Raptor Center as a baby after being captive bred in California in 2013. She is our artist in residence, using her feet to wade through non-toxic finger paints and walk around on canvas. Her works are sold and the funds used to aid in vulture conservation for vultures around the globe.

  • Fun Facts & Other Interesting Information

    The Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture does not have a voicebox or associated muscles. It is almost silent and unable to utter any song or call. However, it can produce hisses, rattles, grunts and sneezing noises and is usually more “vocal” during the breeding season. Boom, chicka, boom, boom.

    "The vulture was an important being in the everyday lives of ancient peoples. It is a soaring, shamanic bird, associated with highness and brightness. It is a transformer of death and sacrificial offerings. It is related to agriculture, for which the rulers were responsible. It is a civilized being of many talents."