American vultures (Family Cathartidae)

 

The New World vulture Family Cathartidae contains seven species in
five genera. It includes five vultures and two condors found in warm and
temperate areas of the Americas.

 

New World vultures are not closely genetically related to the superficially
similar family of Old World vultures; similarities between the two groups
are due to convergent evolution. Just how closely related they are is a
matter of debate.

 

Vultures are scavenging birds, feeding mostly from carcasses of dead
animals. New World vultures have a good sense of smell, but Old World
vultures find carcasses exclusively by sight. A particular characteristic
of many vultures is a bald head, devoid of feathers.

 

These birds are generally large, ranging in length from the lesser
yellowheaded vulture at 56–61 centimeters (22–24 in) up to the
California and Andean condors, both of which can reach 120 centimeters
(48 in) in length and weigh 12 or more kilograms (26 or more lb).

Plumage is predominantly black or brown, and is sometimes marked
with white. All species have featherless heads and necks. In some, this
skin is brightly colored, and in the king vulture it is developed into
colorful wattles and outgrowths.

 

All species have long, broad wings and a stiff tail, suitable for soaring.
They are the best adapted to soaring of all land birds.

 

 

Back to Inventory of Bird Families and Species

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