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Vulture Facts

Size Up to 51 in (130 cm); up to 126 in (320 cm) (wingspan)
Speed Up to 55 mph (88 km/h)
Weight 15-33 lb (7-15 kg)
Lifespan 16-40 years
Food Carrion
Predators -
Habitat America, Africa, Europe, Asia
Order Accipitriformes
Family Old World vultures, New World vultures
Scientific name Accipitridae; Cathartidae
Characteristics Large bird of prey that mostly eats carrion

Main Characteristics

Vultures are large birds of prey. There are almost 20 kinds of Old World vulture (aepgypiinae), including the cinereous vulture, the Rüppell's vulture and the griffon vulture. And there are seven types of New World vulture (cathartidae, or condors), including the king vulture and the Andean condor. Three types of vulture make up their own sub-family (gypaetinae): the bearded vulture, Egyptian vulture and palm-nut vulture.

Anatomy and Appearance

Bald Heads and Bald Necks

Vultures mostly have an unmistakable bald head and a bald neck with a ruff of feathers. This unusual look is especially handy for the birds because they get very close to their food (dead animals) with their heads and necks. Bacteria from the dead animal can’t breed as quickly on bare skin as in feathers.

Vultures Have a Large Wingspan

Many vultures have a large wingspan. The bearded vulture's wingspan is up to 283 cm and the California condor's wingspan up to 300 cm. When the Andean condor spreads its wings, it measures an impressive 320 cm from tip to tip.

Senses and Abilities

How Fast Are Vultures?

Most vultures fly at 31-37 mph (50-60 km/h). The Californian condor is particularly fast, it can reach speeds of up to 55 mph (88 km/h).

Vultures Are Very Intelligent

Each type of vulture has come up with its own tricks to get at food. The Egyptian vulture, for example, cracks ostrich eggs by throwing stones at them. Bearded vultures grab bones, fly up into the air and drop them onto rocks so they break.

Enemies and Threats

Do Vultures Have Enemies?

This isn’t because they’re too big or because predators are too small or unskilled. Because of their diets, vultures have lots of bacteria on their feathers that would make most predators sick. It’s best to keep your paws (or in this case: teeth) off these germ factories!

Importance For the Ecosystem

A special characteristic of vultures is their diet: they eat (mostly) carrion. This doesn’t make them particularly popular with most people at first glance. Ew, They Eat Dead Animals! But without vultures, our ecosystem would be in danger. Because they eat dead, rotting corpses, they reduce the risk of dangerous diseases breaking out. Many vultures even eat the bones of their prey. There is an acid in theirstomach that’s more corrosive than battery acid. It helps digest hard bones.

Autor TheoFrom here you find facts written by fan Theo

Griffon Vulture Facts

Size Up to 47 in (120 cm); up to 110 in (280 cm) (wingspan)
Weight 13-24 lb (6-11 kg)
Habitat Africa, Europe, Asia
Scientific name Gyps fulvus
Characteristics Largest vulture in Europe (body length)

Griffon Vulture Griffon Vulture - Photo: Carmine Arienzo/Shutterstock

You Can’t Miss Them!

Griffon vultures are the largest vultures in Europe. They don’t have feathers on their necks.

Glasses? Not for the Griffon Vulture!

Griffon vultures can easily see a 12 in (30 cm) object on the ground from almost 2.5 miles (4 km) up.

Griffon Vultures Don’t Like "Garbage"

Griffon vultures only eat muscle flesh and viscera from carrion. They leave practically everything else.

Cinereous Vulture Facts

Size Up to 43 inch (110 cm); wingspan up to 116 inch (295 cm)
Weight 15-26 lb (7-12 kg)
Habitat Europe, Asia
Scientific name Aegypius monachus
Characteristics One of the largest birds of prey in Europe

Cinereous Vulture Cinereous Vulture - Photo: Jesus Giraldo Gutierrez/Shutterstock

Cinereous Vultures Are Like Garbage Collectors

Cinereous vultures eat almost everything on a dead animal: tough skin, hard-to-digest sinew and even bone are no problem for the cinereous vulture.

I’m the Boss Here!

It’s not only vultures that gather around animal corpses to feast. But cinereous vultures are so big that they’re mostly the bosses at any “buffet”. Nobody usually wants to mess with such large opponents.

A Hunter of Necessity

If they can’t find enough carrion, powerful cinereous vultures will also hunt live tortoises, lizards and marmots.

Rüppell's Vulture Facts

Size Up to 40 in (103 cm); up to 102 in (260 cm) (wingspan)
Weight 13-20 lb (6-9 kg)
Habitat Europe, Africa
Scientific name Gyps rueppellii
Characteristics The highest flying bird in the world

Rüppell's Vulture Rüppell's Vulture - Photo: Ian Dyball/Shutterstock

High Flyers

Rüppell's vultures can fly very high. In November 1973, a Rüppell's vulture was spotted at a height of 37,000 feet (11,300 meters) (because it was sadly sucked into a jet turbine).

Social Butterflies

Rüppell's vultures are social animals. When one discovers a corpse, it’s not uncommon for hundreds of animals to settle down to eat just a short time later. Just like its relative, the griffon vulture, the Rüppell's vulture only eats muscle flesh and viscera. It doesn’t bother with skin, sinew or bone.

The facts above were written by animalfunfacts fan Theo. Thanks! Do you want to write a fan factsheet?

Bearded Vulture Bearded Vulture - Photo: Erni/Shutterstock


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