New World Vultures (cathartid vultures) are more closely related to the stork, than to the vultures found in the warmer parts of Europe, Asia and Africa. The latter are in the same family as hawks and eagles. There are 7 species of New World vultures, 15 Old World.
Vultures are sometimes called buzzards. They are scavenger birds that “clean up” carrion (dead animals), although they occasionally attack helpless or young animals. Vultures eat animals that have died of old age, disease or injury, still-born young, and, of course, animals predators have killed. A group of vultures can reduce a large animal to bones in two or three hours. Often vultures gorge so much they can’t fly.
Vultures find food with their sharp eyesight, looking for animals that aren’t moving. Plus they watch when other vultures land to feed. The Turkey vulture (New World) also used its good sense of smell to locate dead animals. Many have bare heads which allows vultures to stick their heads inside the carcass of a dead animal without soiling their feathers.
The Bearded vulture (Old World), also called Lammergeyer, lives in the high mountains. Its favorite food is marrow and bones. Another African vulture, the Palm-nut Vulture is primarily a vegetarian. Its preferred food is palm nuts from Oil Palms.
Vultures mate for life. They nest on cliff faces, tall trees, tree stumps, caves, and hidden areas on the ground. Old World vultures build large stick platform nests and most species only lay 1 egg. New World vultures don’t build nests and lay 1 to 2 eggs.
Fun Vulture Facts
- Vultures can remain aloft for hours, soaring gracefully on the thermals (warm air) on their long, broad wings.
- When flying the Turkey vulture rocks from side to side, rarely flapping its wings. Its wings are at a V-angle called a dihedral.
- New World vultures have no voice.
- The Hooded vulture (Old World) prefers wetter climates.
- Black vultures (New World) regurgitate when confronted.
- California Condor (North America) and Andean Condor (South America) are also vultures.
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