Thursday, November 13, 2008


Vultures are large birds of prey that live mainly as scavengers on carrion. They are divided into two groups; the New World vultures, family Cathartidae, and the Old World vultures, subfamily Aegypiinae, family Accipitridae. Both group are placed in the order Falconiformes, together with hawks and eagles, and Old World vultures are in fact related to hawks. New World vulture, however, are of more ancient evolutionary origin and have been linked genetically to the storks. The combined classification resulted from superficial similarities produced by convergent evolution; thus the head and neck of all vultures are usually bare except for a thin covering of down, and both groups have weak feet adapted more for walking than clutching. Bills of New World vultures, however, are relatively weak; those of the Old World vultures are generally much stronger.

New World vulture species include the turkey vulture, Chathartes aura, and black vulture, Coragyps atratus both widespread in the Americas; the King vulture, Sarcoramphus papa, of tropical forest regions; and two South Americans Cathartes species. (in United States, vultures are also called buzzards). Turkey vultures depend more on eyesight for finding carrion. The two condor species include the California condor, Gymnogyps californianus, and the Andean condor, Vulture gryphus, which are among the world's largest flying birds.

Old World vultures inhabit the warmer parts of Europe, all of Africa, and the dried parts of Asia. They are most common in mountainous or open country and are seldom found in forest or in areas with high rainfall. All are carrion eaters except for the palm-nut vulture, Gyphohierax angolensis, which feeds principally on the fruit of the oil palm.

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