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Kidadl Team

AUGUST 05, 2021

Amaze-wing Facts About The King Vulture For Kids

King vulture facts are interesting.

Are you an avid bird lover and want to know more about the king of the vultures aka the king vulture? Continue reading more to known interesting facts about this bird. The naming of this bird is interesting as the early Mayans believed that this species of vulture was a king who had the job of communicating messages between gods and humans. These birds are large and are dominant over almost all smaller vultures and big birds of prey. This species of vulture belongs to the genus Sarcoramphus, class Aves, order Cathartiformes of the Animalia kingdom. These animals fall under the classification of the New World Vultures and are found in Argentina. The king vulture diet consists of dead meat, or carrion, as they are scavengers. The king vulture's wings are gigantic and seeing the king vulture flying in the sky seems magnificent, thereby making the king vulture bird a gorgeous bird. These animals are slowly edging towards being vulnerable owing to habitat destruction by humans.

If you find our article interesting then do check out fun facts on the king vulture, along with the black vulture and the black skimmer.

King Vulture Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a king vulture?

Sarcoramphus papa, king vulture, is a type of vulture which falls under the classification of birds.

What class of animal does a king vulture belong to?

The king vulture is a bird and thus it falls under the class of Aves of the Animalia kingdom.

How many king vultures are there in the world?

Though the conservation status of the king vulture (Sarcoramphus papa) has been listed as of Least Concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature or the IUCN Red List, the population of these species of birds has been on the decline. Though the exact number of these birds is uncertain, ornithologists suggest that there are around 10000 king vultures present on our planet with approximately 67% of their entire population being mature adults.

Where does a king vulture live?

These birds prefer staying in forests but they can also be found in grasslands. These scavenging birds can be exclusively found in the southern hemisphere of the planet. These birds are native to Central and South America and can be found in southern countries like Argentina and Colombia.

What is a king vulture's habitat?

These vulture species prefer staying in forests. However, the king vulture's habitat is mainly grasslands like the savannas or lowlands. Thick and dense forests prove to be the ideal habitat for these birds which can be found in the canopies of the evergreen tropical forests. Out in the wild, very little information is known regarding their habitat however, these birds prefer staying at an elevation of more than 3900 ft above sea level.

Who do king vultures live with?

These birds are known to live with their family. As these birds are solitary animals, they do not form large groups or colonies and are restricted to their family units. A group of these birds can be seen flying or sitting on top of the canopy of tall trees, constantly on the look for food. These birds are not migratory and thus they don't travel together and are found in their fixed habitat all year.

How long does a king vulture live?

The king vulture is among those selective few birds that have a relatively greater lifespan in comparison with other animals of the Aves class. These birds tend to live more than 30 years and have an average lifespan of almost 40 years in captivity. One such bird is known to be living at the age of 47. However, the extent of their lifespan is unknown due to very limited data.

How do they reproduce?

Like the majority of birds, the king vulture is known to showcase an elaborate mating ritual. These birds are monogamous in nature, i.e they mate with only one partner. During the mating process, these birds are known to be extremely vocal and loud, thereby making a variety of sounds. The breeding season for these birds occurs during the dry season. The males of these species attain sexual maturity at an age of around four or five years, while the females mature earlier in comparison to the males. Usually, a single egg is laid which is taken care of and incubated by both parents. The egg usually hatches after around 52-58 days. The parents take care of the young chick for quite some time and the chick grows feathers after almost 18 months. These birds are usually solitary in nature and thus they build small nests for their family and are extremely protective of them.

What is their conservation status?

The International Union for Conservation for Nature or the IUCN Red List has listed these birds as of Least Concern. However, there has been a steady decrease in the population of this species due to human activities which include the likes of habitat destruction. It is estimated that the total population of these birds lies in the range of 1,000-10,000 individuals. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, or CITES, has listed the king vulture in Appendix III.  

King Vulture Fun Facts

What do king vultures look like?

King vultures are known to breed during the dry season.

One of the most distinguishable features in these birds is the presence of the exuberant white plumage which makes the king vulture a majestic bird. Though major parts of the body like the tail and ruff are black in color, the wings are white with their pointed tips being black. This is one bird that has a variety of colors on its body. The beak, neck, and head of these birds are red or orange in color, while the eyes are either silver or white. The beaks of these birds are hooked and extremely strong which makes it extremely beneficial to tear flesh from the body of their prey.

How cute are they?

The king vulture (Sarcoramphus papa) is a majestic bird and their exquisite colors and plumage make them extremely adorable. In this species of bird, sexual dimorphism is not shown and thus as a result the male and the female variants of the species cannot be determined or differentiated from one another just by their physical appearance. The young birds develop their plumage at the age of 18 months, however, they still look adorable with their white fluffy feathers.

How do they communicate?

The communication in the case of the king vultures is tricky as well as highly interesting. Usually, birds of this species are devoid of the syrinx, or the voice box, yet these birds can make noises through which they communicate with one another. These birds are capable of making two different and distinct types of noises. As a general means of communication these birds are known to produce low sounds, however, they are known to produce loud noises while mating and also while giving out distress calls when threatened or approached by an enemy or predator.

How big is a king vulture?

Vultures in general are large-sized birds and the king vulture is one of the largest birds in the New World vultures. These giant birds measure around 28-32 in or 71-81 cm in length approximately. The king vulture wingspan is around 71-78 in or 180-198 cm. Only a few species of birds, like condors and eagles, have a larger wingspan than that of the king vulture. In comparison to the greatest bird of prey on the planet, the golden eagle, which is 26-39 in or 66 – 100 cm in length, the king vulture comes really close and can be considered as almost equal in size.

How fast can a king vulture fly?

There is very limited information on the king vultures that are found in the wild and as a result of data and statistics being unavailable, the speed at which the king vultures fly is undetermined. However, by analyzing the flying style of the king vultures, we can make an estimate about its speed. These birds have gigantic and powerful wings thanks to which they can glide and soar by cutting the air currents in the sky for many hours, constantly on the hunt to look for food. While flying these birds are known to flap their wings at unequal intervals and their wings are positioned in a flat posture with the tips being raised to make the body streamlined and thereby pass through the airstreams easily. When the king vulture beats its wings, the beats are usually deep flaps and thus we can assume that these birds are extremely powerful flyers that can travel at fast speeds.

How much does a king vulture weigh?

The king vultures are one of the largest birds of the New World vultures. An average adult king vulture weighs around 6.6-9.9 lb or 3-4.5 kg approximately. In comparison to the golden eagle, the greatest bird of prey, the king vulture is just relatively smaller as an average-sized adult golden eagle female weighs around 7.9-14.8 lb or 3.6-6.7 kg.

What are their male and female names of the species?

Unlike other birds where the male variants are known as cocks and the female as hens, that is not the case for king vultures. No particular names have been assigned and usually males and females are the generic names that are used to differentiate among the variants of these species.

What would you call a baby king vulture?

A baby vulture is known as a vulture chick, and thus in the case of a baby king vulture, the young one is known as a king vulture chick.

What do they eat?

Vultures are scavengers and the king vulture is no different. King vultures eat dead animals that have been hunted or have fallen prey to other animals. The king vultures are not birds of prey and they never hunt any animals. These birds are known to be constantly on the lookout for food by flying and soaring high in the sky. Unlike other vultures, these birds don't have any sense of smell and thus they rely on their powerful eyesight to look for food. These birds often look and observe the behavioral patterns of other fellow scavengers and thus use those body signs to effectively look for food. After food has been found, these birds usually drive away other birds and start to eat the flesh. With their highly powerful and hooked beak, they can easily tear off the flesh. These birds have the specialty of tearing the flesh and hard tissues of the carcass.

Are they dangerous?

Vultures are not known to harm or attack human beings. As for the case of the king vulture, the previous statement remains true. Moreover, these are wild birds and found in the tropical forests of Central America where there is limited human interaction. Thus we can conclude that though the king vulture is a large bird they are not dangerous to humans.

Would they make a good pet?

No. You are not allowed to keep vultures as pets and the same holds true for king vultures. Vultures are scavengers and they feed on dead animals and thus play a vital role in maintaining the balance of the ecosystem. It would be impossible to recreate the exact habitat for the king vulture if you wanted to keep one as a pet in your home.

Did you know...

The king vulture has 80 chromosomes that are diploid in nature.

How do king vultures clean themselves?

The king vultures are rigorous cleaners. They usually travel long distances to wash their feathers and then bask them in the sun. They are also known to excrete on themselves, especially their legs to kill germs and bacteria which carry diseases.

What is the fleshy part of a king vulture's beak?

The king vulture has a flesh protruding structure on the beak called a caruncle that is orange in color.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other birds including Cooper's hawk and the goshawk.

You can even occupy yourself at home by drawing one of our vulture coloring pages.

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