Wild Fact #892 – King of the Dead – King Vulture

Photo by Douglas Janson

Happy Thursday Everyone!  Only two more days until the vacation starts!  Can you tell that I am excited? I thought today would be a good day to talk about a bird that does not get the respect that they deserve. Sure the King Vulture may have disgusting eating habits but they have a very important job on this planet.

As we all know, the King Vulture feeds on carrion which is a nice way of saying dead animals. This may not be a pleasant food source but it does help prevent the spread of disease, which is why vultures deserve a little more respect from us. Have you ever wondered why vultures have a bald head? Again, it has to do with their food source. As I mentioned, rotting carcasses tend to have a lot of bacteria so the bald head prevents the bacteria from getting caught in their plumage and causing health problems for the bird.  Maybe people are bald for a reason too?

The King Vulture really is the king of the vultures and are generally the first one to feed on a kill. It isn’t that the other birds are bowing down to the King but that the King Vulture has evolved a powerful, hooked beak.  This beak is capable of breaking apart portions of the carcass that other vultures can’t get to.  By letting the king vulture do the work the other birds can feed off of the remains.  If you ask me, I think the other vultures are the smart ones!

So how do these birds actually find their food? There is some disagreement between scientists as to how they detect their next meal.  Some believe that they have a keen sense of smell and can take after Toucan Sam by “Just Following Your Nose”.  Others believe they have great eyesight and can spot their dinner from miles away. The last theory is that the King Vulture just follows the rest of the scavengers to their meal.  I am not sure how they find their prey but I can tell you that they sure are good at cleaning up after the dead.

Well, I am done for the day!  Have a good one!

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