King Vulture

• ORDER • • FAMILY • • GENUS & SPECIES •

Falconiformes Cathartidae Sarcoramphus papa

• ORDER • • FAMILY • • GENUS & SPECIES •

Falconiformes Cathartidae Sarcoramphus papa

KEY FEATURES

• A powerful scavenger that soars over the forests of Central and South America

• One of the most strikingly colored and odd-looking of all birds of prey

• Often the first vulture to feed at a large carcass; its strong bill can rip through the toughest hide

WHERE IN THE WORLD!

Ranges from central Mexico through Central America into South America, as far south as northern Argentina; also found on the island of Trinidad in the Caribbean

The king vulture often relies on other vulture species to find a meal. But at a carcass, it lives up to its name when others stand back, giving way to the power of its mighty bill.

The king vulture is a bird of the ▲ Loner lowland tropics, but occasionally The king vulture is at is found up to 8,250' on the home in the deep gloom slopes of the Andes mountains. of dense rainforest. It prefers to fly over large, undisturbed areas of forest, but may hunt on open savannah and grassland, although usually only where there is woodland close by. It's at home in the unbroken rainforests of the Amazon as well as in the dry, deciduous forests of parts of Central America, Venezuela, eastern Brazil, Paraguay, Bolivia and northern Argentina.

food & feeding food & feeding

The king vulture is a scavenger; feeding on carcasses of a wide range of wild and domestic animals. Soaring high, it uses its superb eyesight to spot carrion far below in grassland or forest clearings. But above dense forest, it relies on other vultures to guide it to food. Unlike the king vulture — and most other birds — the turkey vulture and two species of yellow-headed vulture, which share the king vulture's range, have a keen sense of smell and use it while soaring at low level to trace carcasses other species can't see.The king vulture takes advantage of this, often shadowing the smaller vultures. When they drop to feed, it follows close behind. It dominates the others at a carcass, but may tolerate their presence while it feeds.

The king vulture has a stronger bill than its relatives, and can even rip into the "armor" of an armadillo (above right). This sometimes benefits the smaller vultures as they can't break into such carcasses themselves.

FIT FOR A KING

Search.

Soaring high, a king vulture spots turkey vultures below as they fly in circles — a sign that they've scented food hidden in the forest.

Search.

Soaring high, a king vulture spots turkey vultures below as they fly in circles — a sign that they've scented food hidden in the forest.

breeding

Courtship begins in March with a pair of vultures opening and closing their wings and lowering their heads to show off their crowns.

Like other New World vultures, king vultures don't build a nest. The female lays her one white egg in a hollow tree stump or on the ground, occasionally on cliffs, and sometimes in the old nests of other birds.The egg is incubated for 8 weeks, in some pairs by both sexes; in others, only by the female.The chick (covered in white down) and the female are fed on regurgitated carrion by the male. Later the female helps feed her offspring.

The chick regularly wanders from the nest as it develops and fledges in three months.The parents keep a close watch on their young for possibly as long as two years, before it leaves and becomes independent.

This youngster has yet to grow full adult plumage.

This youngster has yet to grow full adult plumage.

The king vulture follows the turkey vultures to the carcass of a river dolphin that washed up on the bank and drives them away.

The king vulture follows the turkey vultures to the carcass of a river dolphin that washed up on the bank and drives them away.

conservation

It's difficult to estimate the king vulture's population, as the bird is rarely seen, spending much of its time in the forest canopy or soaring high in the sky. The species doesn't appear to be threatened and may even benefit from the growing number of cattle ranches, provided it has access to patches of undisturbed forest for breeding. But it suffers when forests are cleared or where populations of large mammals are reduced.

The king vulture soon rips the dolphin open and begins feeding on the skin and tougher parts while the other vultures look on.

Q Full

When the king vulture has eaten its fill, the turkey vultures draw close, waiting to feed on the softer parts left behind.

The king vulture soon rips the dolphin open and begins feeding on the skin and tougher parts while the other vultures look on.

Q Full

When the king vulture has eaten its fill, the turkey vultures draw close, waiting to feed on the softer parts left behind.

behavior

The king vulture isn't very social and is usually found singly, in pairs or in family groups of two parents and a youngster. It spends its time soaring or perching on treetops or resting on river sandbanks. It's a silent bird; along with its relatives, it lacks the syrinx (voicebox) of most birds and can make only weak hissing sounds.

The unusual pattern of brightly colored bare skin on the king vulture's head probably helps it recognize members of its own species as well as advertise an individual's status.

% The king vulture's species name, papa, is the Latin word for bishop and relates to the bird's similar appearance to the finery worn by a bishop.

# In Brazil, the turkey vulture — the frequent feeding partner of the king vulture — is called the minister vulture, reflecting its sometimes privileged, but subordinate, position.

# Like its relatives the storks, the king vulture shoots its white, liquid droppings onto its legs to cool itself in hot weather.

v A CLEAN-SHAVEN

A featherless head is easy to clean after feeding.

v A CLEAN-SHAVEN

A featherless head is easy to clean after feeding.

ofile King Vulture

A powerful build and intimidating bill enable the colorful king vulture to dominate other south American vultures and rip into tough carcasses.

Head & neck

Head is adorned with brightly colored, grooved wattles (loose folds of bare skin); the neck has bright, bare skin.

BiLL

Heavy bill is hooked for tearing skin. Its fleshy base, the cere, is bright orange and bears a bright, multilobed wattle.

Plumage

The male and female look alike with bold creamy-white and-black plumage. A bare patch of skin on the chest overlies the crop (a food storage sac in the bird'sgullet) which may bulge when the bird has eaten a large meal.

Feet

The feet and talons are weak and are designed for walking.They aren't adapted to tearing flesh or carrying food like most other birds of prey.

Head is adorned with brightly colored, grooved wattles (loose folds of bare skin); the neck has bright, bare skin.

Heavy bill is hooked for tearing skin. Its fleshy base, the cere, is bright orange and bears a bright, multilobed wattle.

Eyes

The eyes are colorful, with a gleaming white iris surrounded by a bright-red ring.

Ruff

A thick grayish ruff of short feathers surrounds the base of the neck.

Eyes

The eyes are colorful, with a gleaming white iris surrounded by a bright-red ring.

Ruff

A thick grayish ruff of short feathers surrounds the base of the neck.

ggj CREATURE COMPARISONS

King Vulture

Two other species of vulture from the New World are even larger than the king vulture: the California condor; Gymnogyps californianus, and Andean condor; Vultur gryphus.The latter is in the same family as the king vulture and is the world's largest bird of prey.The Andean condor can be four times heavier than the king vulture; large males weigh up to 26 lbs. It has an overall length of up to 4' and a wingspan of up to 10.5'. Like the king vulture, it has a bare neck to prevent soiling when feeding on carrion.The Andean condor has also been known to kill sickly or dying animals.

Andean condor

King Vulture

Andean condor

Juvenile

A juvenile lacks the bold colors of an adult, being an overall grayish-black with similarly drab bare skin areas. It gains adult colors gradually over about four years.

ViTAL STATiSTiCS

Juvenile

A juvenile lacks the bold colors of an adult, being an overall grayish-black with similarly drab bare skin areas. It gains adult colors gradually over about four years.

Weight

6.5-8 lbs.

Length

2-2.7'

Wingspan

6-6.5'

Sexual Maturity

3-4 years

Mating Season

MarchAugust

Number of Eggs

1

Incubation period

53-58 days

3 months

Breeding Interval

1 year

Typical Diet

Carrion of a wide variety of species

Lifespan

Unknown

[; RELATED SPECiES

- • The king vulture is one of 7 species of New World vulture in the Cathartidae family, which includes the American black vulture, California and Andean condors, the lesser and greater yellow-headed vultures and the turkey vulture. New World vultures, classified in the bird-of-prey order Falconiformes, are now thought to be more closely related to storks, family Ciconiidae, in the order Ciconiiformes.

Kiwis

• ORDER • • FAMILY • • GENUS & SPECIES •

Struthioniformes Apterygidae Aptéryx sp.

• ORDER • • FAMILY • • GENUS & SPECIES •

Struthioniformes Apterygidae Aptéryx sp.

Spotted Birds Prey California

r-------*-----------------„.-----

t

PPiHPPPPPVfV

.«Mia mi u

KEY FEATURES

WHERE IN THE WORLD!

1 • Nocturnal, flightless birds that spend the day

The brown kiwi is found only

sheltering in dense cover or hollow logs

4* f*

on North, South and Stewart

f • Use long, probing bills and a highly developed

Islands, New Zealand; the little

sense of smell to search out underground prey

spotted kiwi is on four offshore

^ • Produce enormous eggs that are incubated

jjk

islands; the great spotted kiwi

for longer than any other species of bird

f

is found on South Island

Kiwis are extremely secretive birds, spending their days hidden in dense vegetation and emerging only under cover of darkness to probe for food buried in the ground.

HABITAT

The three species of kiwi are found in a variety of habitats across New Zealand. Preferred natural habitat is among the wet forests of podocarps (evergreen coniferous shrubs) and hardwoods, but they're also found in dry open forests, scrubland and meadows surrounded by woodland. Because of clearance of native forests in New Zealand (which is now controlled), kiwis are also found in nonnative pine forest plantations and even on agricultural land.

Little is known about kiwis' precise habitat requirements. But soil texture appears to be an important factor; it has to be soft enough for kiwis to probe for food, yet firm and supportive enough to allow safe excavation of nest sites. Soil must also be rich to ^ Undercover attract worms and small inver- Flightless, kiwis need tebrates on which kiwis feed. thick vegetation for cover.

p/pwtt/wotv?

• Kiwis have poor eyesight; they can see only about 3' in daylight and 7' in the dark.

• While incubating eggs, male kiwis lose as much as a fifth of their bodyweight.

breeding breeding

Once a kiwi chooses a breeding partner, the pair stays together for life. After mating, a female lays one or two eggs in vegetation, a hollow log or between tree roots. A second egg may be laid up to 30 days after the first. Eggs are huge, weighing up to a fifth of the female's bodyweight.The male takes over, incubating the eggs for three months (the longest incubation period of any bird). Hatching may take three days; in a week the chicks are strong enough to leave the nest to search for food.

^ ► On the nest A newly hatched brown kiwi (left) and a week-old great spotted kiwi (right).

kiwi fruit

p/pwtt/wotv?

^ ► On the nest A newly hatched brown kiwi (left) and a week-old great spotted kiwi (right).

Preparation...

A little spotted kiwi uses its strong legs and feet to excavate a nest hole among the tree roots.

The female then lays her enormous egg, the largest of any bird in the world relative to her bodyweight.

Preparation...

A little spotted kiwi uses its strong legs and feet to excavate a nest hole among the tree roots.

The female then lays her enormous egg, the largest of any bird in the world relative to her bodyweight.

behavior behavior conservation

Full protection was given to kiwis in 1921, but by then the birds had suffered from relentless hunting for food and feathers, and by the destruction of their habitat. Deforestation continues, but conservationists are translocating kiwis to new areas before their forests are cut down and holding some birds in captivity to set up breeding programs.

Many of the kiwis' habits are more akin to those of mammals than birds. They live in pairs all year and keep in contact within a home range by using calls. They're also aggressively territorial, and although they chase away intruding kiwis, they also use droppings to mark out their territories as many mammals do.

Kiwis are nocturnal; because they're flightless, the dark offers safety against predators. In fact, kiwis appear to have a strong dislike of daylight and when roosting, bury their heads beneath the feathers of their rudimentary wings.

562 Kiwis

The chick hatches after three months' Both parents feed the chick. In incubation by the male. It breaks a week, it leaves the nest and is through the shell with its feet. independent at 14-20 days.

The chick hatches after three months' Both parents feed the chick. In incubation by the male. It breaks a week, it leaves the nest and is through the shell with its feet. independent at 14-20 days.

^ Night bird

Kiwis leave their shelters only after dusk.

^ Night bird

Kiwis leave their shelters only after dusk.

FOOD & FEEDING -

Kiwis rely on their highly developed senses of smell and hearing to find food during their nighttime foraging.These nocturnal birds scratch through leaf litter and soil with their powerful claws for earthworms, millipedes, beetles, insect larvae, crickets and spiders. Kiwis also employ their long, sensitive bills to target prey, peppering the ground with holes up to 0.4" wide and 6" deep. Seeds and berries are also eaten; kiwis pick them off the forest floor with a twee-zerlike bill action. As they feed, kiwis make a snuffling sound as they breathe in to pick up the scent of prey and as they breathe out, possibly to clear dirt from the nostrils after probing in the soil.

When food is plentiful, kiwis amass fat (may total one-third ▼ Bill of fare their weight), which they draw Kiwis can smell prey on during food shortages. hidden beneath the surface.

OFILE Kiwis

Oddities of the bird world, the flightless kiwis have no visible wings and plumage that looks more like a coat of long hair than feathers.

Plumage

Plumage is dense and hairlike, protecting kiwis as they move through prickly vegetation. Two short wings, about 2" long, are hidden under the feathers.

Bill

Female's bill is up to a third longer than the male's, which means she can reach food at a deeper level and avoid competition for the same resources.

Nostrils

Unlike other birds, kiwis have nostrils at the tip of their bills to help sniff out prey in the ground.

Plumage

Plumage is dense and hairlike, protecting kiwis as they move through prickly vegetation. Two short wings, about 2" long, are hidden under the feathers.

Legs & feet

Powerful, muscular legs with large, clawed, stout-toed feet help kiwis run swiftly, scrape soil and kick out in defense.

Bill

Female's bill is up to a third longer than the male's, which means she can reach food at a deeper level and avoid competition for the same resources.

Unlike other birds, kiwis have nostrils at the tip of their bills to help sniff out prey in the ground.

Vulture Mating Season

Kiwis have good hearing and cock their heads to listen for prey moving in the soil.

CREATURE COMPARISONS-

Size is the principal difference between the three kiwi species. The largest is the brown kiwi; some females weigh 8 lbs. At the other end of the scale is the little spotted kiwi, which weighs only 2 lbs. The great spotted kiwi is slightly larger: The species can also be told apart by their coloring. The brown kiwi is uniform brown, the little spotted kiwi is brown with lighter barring and the great spotted kiwi has an overall brown-streaked appearance.

Brown kiwi

Brown kiwi

ViTAL STATiSTiCS

ViTAL STATiSTiCS

Weight

2-8 lbs.;

female heavier

than male

Length

1-2'

Wingspan

1.5-2"

sexual

5-6 years

Maturity

Breeding

August-

Season

January

Number

1 or 2

of Eggs

Incubation

71-84 days

period

Fledging

14-20 days

Period

Breeding

1 year

Interval

Typical

Insects, worms

Diet

and berries

Lifespan

Unknown in

wild; 30 years

in captivity

• There are 3 species of kiwi in the Apteryx genus (the great spotted, A. haasti, little spotted, A. owenii, and brown, A. australis). All are in the Struthioniformes ' order (flightless birds), which includes the emu, Dromaius novaehollandiae (below)

Was this article helpful?

0 0
Berry Boosters

Berry Boosters

Acai, Maqui And Many Other Popular Berries That Will Change Your Life And Health. Berries have been demonstrated to be some of the healthiest foods on the planet. Each month or so it seems fresh research is being brought out and new berries are being exposed and analyzed for their health giving attributes.

Get My Free Ebook


Post a comment