Vultur papa Linnaeus, 1758, Suriname. Monotypic.
OTHER COMMON NAMES
French: Sarcoramphe roi; German: Kцnigsgeier; Spanish: Zopilote Rey.
28–32 in (71–81 cm), 6.6–8.3 lb (3–3.8 kg). Most brilliantly colored of the New World vultures with varying hues ranging from purple and blue to red and orange on its head. Its contrasting black and white plumage is opposite that of condors, with a white body and black primary and secondary wing feathers.
Southern Mexico to northern Argentina.
Usually associated with lowland tropical forests but can also be found in savannas, grasslands, and desert margins.
Seldom seen in large groups, usually visits carcasses as a pair with their single offspring where they easily dominate the smaller vultures. Forages for food at high altitudes. They are less gregarious and roost in pairs or family threesomes.
FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET
Has no apparent sense of smell and finds carcasses through the activities of other vultures. Its bill, which is more powerful than the bills of the smaller cathartids, enables it to feed more easily on large carcasses.
Territorial pairs lay a single white egg in hollow trees, sometimes high off the ground. As with other carthatids, no nesting material was used in the few nests that have been found. The 53–58 day incubation is shared equally by both sexes, as regularly seen in captivity. Down of young chick is white. Fledging is at three months with an extended parental dependency period of several more months.
CITES III status in Honduras, but not globally threatened. Relatively rare compared to smaller vultures, but appear to be naturally uncommon even in undisturbed forests.
SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS
Indigenous cultures depicted this striking species in artwork.
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