The first saturday of September is international vulture awareness day!
While these birds may not be everybodies favorite birds, they still fill a very important niche in the environment. They are the clean up crew! When an animal dies, scavengers like vultures will take care of the body. But the deceased animal could be carrying deadly bacteria and viruses such as rabies, botulism and cholera. This factor is one thing that makes vultures such an important key to the food chain. Their stomachs have such strong acids that it even dissolves these bacteria and viruses and removes them from spreading to other wildlife and people.
Vultures are broken down into two seperate groups, old world and new world. Old world vultures are found in Africa, Asia, amd Europe while the new world vultures are located in North and South America.
The old world vultures belong to the family Accipitridae and consist of sixteen different vulture species. Since this group doesnt have a good sence of smell they locate carrion exclusively by sight. Over half of the old world vulture species are listed as either vulnerable, endangered of critically endangered. Their main threats being the use of diclofenac in Asia, poisonings and the trade in their parts in Africa. Threats also include habitat loss.
Old World Vulture Species:
- Cinereous Vulture (Aegypius monachus)
- Bearded Vulture (Gypaetus barbatus)
- Palm-nut Vulture (Gypohierax angolensi)
- Griffon Vulture (Gyps fulvus)
- Indian White-Rumped Vulture (Gyps bengalensis)
- Rueppell’s Vulture (Gyps rueppelli)
- Indian Vulture (Gyps indicus)
- Slender-billed Vulture (Gyps tenuirostris)
- Himalayan Griffon Vulture (Gyps himalayensis)
- White-Backed Vulture (Gyps africanus)
- Cape Griffon (Gyps coprotheres)
- Hooded Vulture (Necrosyrtes monachus)
- Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus)
- Red-Headed Vulture (Sarcogyps calvus)
- Lappet-Faced Vulture (Torgos tracheliotus)
- White-Headed Vulture (Trigonoceps occipitalis)
New world vultures belong to the family Cathartidae and consists of five vulture species and two condor species. Unlike the old world vultures, new world vultures actually have a good sense of smell and locate carrion by detecting the scent of ethyl mercaptan, which is a gas that is produced by decaying bodies.
New World Vulture Species:
- Black Vulture (Coragyps atratus)
- Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura)
- Lesser yellow-headed Vulture (Cathartes burrovianus)
- Greater yellow-headed Vulture (Cathartes melambrotus)
- California Condor (Gymnogyps californianus)
- Andean Condor (Vultur gryphus)
- King Vulture (Sarcoramphus papa)
- Smallest Vulture: Lesser Yellow headed vulture with a length of up to 22 to 24 inches
- Largest: Andean condor with a wingspan of up to 10 ft 10 inches and weighing up to 33 pounds.
- New World Vultures will defecate on their own legs to cool them by evaporation, this habit is called urohydrosis.
- A group of vultures is called a venue.
- The egyptian vulture is one of the few animals who will use tools. They will use rocks to break open the thick shell of ostrich eggs.