King Vulture
Sarcorhamphus papa

ORDER: Falconiformes
FAMILY: Cathartidae

6 -9 lbs.; total length 32 inches; wings 19 - 20 inches

From Central Mexico to Northern Argentina

Forests species; Amazon rain forests; also seen in plains and savannahs

Wild - Carrion feeder; scavenger
Zoo - Bird of Prey diet, sometimes rodents


  • Most attractive of all New World vultures; a spectacular bird of prey
  • Has plumage which is predominately creamy white with no difference in the male and female; head and neck are naked; cere and nostrils are orange-yellow


  • Powerful bill, curved at tip and has sharp cutting edges. Strongest beak of all South American vultures which inspires great respect among other scavenging animals.
  • According to anatomical structure and behavior it appears to be among the few birds which find food by their sense of smell. They can find food in places where vision is much restricted and where without a good sense of smell would make finding decomposing meat difficult.
  • Not excessively shy, but avoids people and keeps away from villages.
  • It has a habit of flying just above the level of the trees, occasionally soaring high in to the sky and gliding in wide circles for hours at a time spying out its domain below.
  • They are solitary birds, but will sometimes live in small groups.
  • Courtship display involves dance and hissing sounds.

Do not build nests; female simply deposits her single egg in the hollow of a rotten tree trunk or in a crack caused by age of lightning. Parents take turns incubating the egg (56 - 58 days). Young leave the nest after 1 year.

King vultures do well in captivity and most information regarding their reproductive habits has been obtained from birds in captive situation such as zoos.

CITES App. II; Not threatened; susceptible to human disturbance to the forest