Sarcoramphus papa


Physical characteristics: The feathers on king vultures' bellies and backs are white, and the large flight feathers on their wings are black. It is the most colorful New World vulture with bright red, yellow, orange, blue, and purple patches on its wrinkled head, its smooth neck, and the wattle, a flap of skin, above its beak. The length of a king vulture is between 28 and 32 inches (71 and 81 centimeters), and it weighs between 6.6 and 8.3 pounds (3 and 3.8 kilograms).

Geographic range: King vultures live from southern Mexico to northern Argentina in South America.

Habitat: King vultures are most commonly found in rainforests, but they also live in grasslands and among grazing cattle.

Diet: King vultures find carrion by circling high in the sky. If they notice smaller vultures eating at a carcass, king vultures fly down and take over. King vultures can tear apart large animals better than the smaller vultures.

Behavior and reproduction: King vulture females lay a single egg in a hollow tree, sometimes high off the ground. Both parents care for the chick. Young birds can fly at three months, but they depend on their parents for feeding for a few more months.

King vultures and people: King vultures are so colorful that artists like to use them as the subject of their work.

Conservation status: King vultures are not listed as endangered. ■

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