King Vulture (Sarcoramphus papa)
King Vulture, Serra de Carajás, Pará, Brazil, October 2005 - click for larger image Brazil

The King Vulture is essentially a white bird with black flight feathers. It has a grey collar and a red, orange and purple head.

It is found from Mexico to northern Argentina, mainly in virgin forest but also in more open areas.

King Vulture, Serra de Carajás, Pará, Brazil, October 2005 - click for larger image

While it has very keen eye-sight it has a poor sense of smell and relies on Turkey Vultures Cathartes aura and Greater Yellow-headed Vultures Cathartes melambrotus to find carrion.

Being larger and stronger, the King Vulture is useful to the other vultures in being more capable of tearing open tough skin. It is dominant over the other vultures at a carcass, hence the name "King", but is not overly aggressive.

King Vulture, Serra de Carajás, Pará, Brazil, October 2005 - click for larger image Photos 1, 2 and 5 are of birds from a family group of six which were perched near a tapir carcass, the tapir having been killed by a jaguar a few days previously. There did not seem to be any other species of vulture in the vicinity.

Photos 3 and 4 were taken at the municipal dump where there were about 30 or so King Vultures along with Turkey Vultures and Black Vultures Coragyps atratus scavenging in the rubbish. The russet tone on the King Vultures comes from the colour of the soil at the dump.

King Vulture, Serra de Carajás, Pará, Brazil, October 2005 - click for larger image Photo 3 shows a grey-black juvenile beside an adult. It takes about four years to reach full adult plumage.

Photo 4 shows a King Vulture alighting on a tree having disturbed a Black Caracara Daptrius ater. There are two Black Vultures also perched on the tree.

King Vulture, Serra de Carajás, Pará, Brazil, October 2005 - click for larger image There are illustrations in HBW, Volume 2, Pages 32 and 38; and in Sick, Plate 6.
King Vulture, Chapada dos Guimarães, Mato Grosso, Brazil, Sept 2000 - click for larger image
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