A significant difference between king vultures and other vultures is the white plumage they are covered with. The males and females look the same. The sense of smell of a king vulture is not well-developed. They will depend on other vultures to find prey and eat what they see other birds eating. Although they can make low croaking sounds, they do lack a voice box. King vultures beaks are more powerful than any other vulture which gives them the capability to break through tougher hides. The fleshy wattle on the king vulture’s beak is called a caruncle.
The vultures prefer to sit high in canopies or soar high in the air looking for food. They do not migrate and can be seen in the same habitat all year long. They’re not an aggressive bird and often will back down from a fight. King vultures are New World vultures and are unique in how they feed their young. Unlike other birds of prey, which carry food to their young in their talons, king vultures have a large crop (muscular pouch near the throat) that allows them to carry food in the gut which is then regurgitated to feed their young.
Mating between the king vultures is loud with unique sounds. They are mostly monogamous and solitary. They do not build a nest, instead lay their egg in rotting logs or stumps or crevices in trees. Usually only one egg is laid and incubated by both parents. The eggs take about 53-58 days to hatch. Juveniles begin to get their adult feathers around 18 months but are not considered fully grown until about four years old.
This species is of least concern although their population is decreasing, potentially due to human encroachment and habitat loss. Although they do not have many natural predators their eggs can be eaten by snakes and large cats may attack them as they are eating the carrion.
- Vultures are very important for the environment because if carcasses were not cleaned up, insect populations would increase and more diseases would spread.
- When threatened, most vulture species will vomit as a defense mechanism
- They are the second largest New World vulture (after the condor)