king vulture has white eyes (ringed with red), broad
wings, a short tail, black wings and tail (above),
and an orange beak. The underside of the wings and
chest are white. The head and neck are bare.
67.5-80 cm (27-32 in); wingspan of 1.2-1.66 m (4-5.5
2.7-4.5 kg (6-10 lb.)
feeds on carrion
32-38 days; usually only a single chick is hatched
years in the wild; longer in captivity
Mexico to Paraguay to north Argentina
savanna, tropical forest, and semi-forested lowlands
are several theories as to why the king vulture
was given its name; one theory suggests it comes
from a Mayan legend (dating back to ~450 A.D.) that
believed the vulture to be a messenger between humans
and the gods and the vulture was personified as
a lord or king.
king vultures find their food is a topic scientists
do not agree on: some say they have excellent eyesight
and can see the meal, others say it is their sense
of smell that locates the meat, still others say
neither - the vultures merely follow other scavenging
birds to the food.
king vulture has one of the most powerful beaks
of all American vultures and can open a carcass
that other vultures cannot. For this reason, they
often eat first and other vultures feed off the
head and neck of a king vulture lack feathers. This
helps to prevent bacteria and remains of the carcass
from "fowling" up the feathers on the
head. After eating, the vulture will relax in the
sun and allow the heat to bake off the bacteria.
role of the king vulture in its environment is that
of a scavenger. The king vulture feeds on rotting
carcasses which could potentially spread disease.
They are also able to utilize a food resource which
few animals take advantage of.