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Coragyps Cathartes Gymnogyps Vultur Sarcoramphus

Approximate Cathartidae range map Yellow – Summer-only range of turkey vulture  Green – At least one species present year-round

Synonyms

Vulturidae Illiger, 1811

The New World vulture
New World vulture
or condor family Cathartidae contains seven species in five genera, all but one of which are monotypic. It includes five vultures and two condors found in warm and temperate areas of the Americas. The "New World" vultures were widespread in both the Old World and North America
North America
during the Neogene. Old World vultures
Old World vultures
and New World vultures do not form a single clade, but the two groups appear similar because of convergent evolution. Vultures
Vultures
are scavenging birds, feeding mostly from carcasses of dead animals without apparent ill effects. Bacteria
Bacteria
in the food source, pathogenic to other vertebrates, dominate the vulture's gut flora, and vultures benefit from the bacterial breakdown of carrion tissue. New World vultures have a good sense of smell, whereas Old World vultures find carcasses exclusively by sight. A particular characteristic of many vultures is a bald head, devoid of feathers.

Contents

1 Taxonomy and systematics

1.1 Extinct species and fossils

2 Description 3 Distribution and habitat 4 Behaviour and ecology

4.1 Breeding 4.2 Feeding 4.3 Tolerance to bacterial toxins in decaying meat

5 Status and conservation 6 In culture 7 See also 8 Notes 9 References 10 External links

Taxonomy and systematics[edit]

A pervious nostril is typical of the family

The New World vultures comprise seven species in five genera. The genera are Coragyps, Cathartes, Gymnogyps, Sarcoramphus, and Vultur. Of these, only Cathartes
Cathartes
is not monotypic.[1] The family's scientific name, Cathartidae, comes from cathartes, Greek for "purifier".[2] Although New World vultures have many resemblances to Old World vultures they are not very closely related. Rather, they resemble Old World vultures because of convergent evolution.[3] Phylogenetic analyses including all Cathartidae species found two primary clades: (1) Black Vulture
Vulture
( Coragyps
Coragyps
atratus) together with the three Cathartes species (Lesser C. burrovianus and Greater C. melambrotus Yellow-headed Vultures, and Turkey Vulture
Vulture
C. aura), and (2) King Vulture
Vulture
( Sarcoramphus
Sarcoramphus
papa), California ( Gymnogyps
Gymnogyps
californianus) and Andean ( Vultur
Vultur
gryphus) Condors.[4] New World vultures were traditionally placed in a family of their own in the Falconiformes.[5] However, in the late 20th century some ornithologists argued that they are more closely related to storks on the basis of karyotype,[6] morphological,[7] and behavioral[8] data. Thus some authorities placed them in the Ciconiiformes
Ciconiiformes
with storks and herons; Sibley and Monroe (1990) even considered them a subfamily of the storks. This was criticized,[9][10] and an early DNA sequence study[11] was based on erroneous data and subsequently retracted.[12][13][14] There was then an attempt to raise the New World vultures to the rank of an independent order, Cathartiformes not closely associated with either the birds of prey or the storks and herons.[15] However, recent multi-locus DNA studies on the evolutionary relationships between bird groups[16][17] indicate that New World vultures are related to the other birds of prey, excluding the Falconidae which are distantly related to other raptors, and are not close to storks. In this analysis, the New World vultures should be part of a new order Accipitriformes
Accipitriformes
instead,[17] or perhaps as part of an order (Cathartiformes) closely related to, but distinct from, other birds of prey (besides falcons).[16] New World vultures are a sister group to Accipitriformes[16] when the latter is viewed as a group consisting of Accipitridae, the osprey and secretarybird.[18] Both groups are basal members of the recently recognized clade Afroaves.[16]

Extant species

Common and binomial names Image Description Range

Black vulture Coragyps
Coragyps
atratus

South America and north to US

Turkey vulture Cathartes
Cathartes
aura

Throughout the Americas
Americas
to southern Canada

Lesser yellow-headed vulture Cathartes
Cathartes
burrovianus

South America and north to Mexico

Greater yellow-headed vulture Cathartes
Cathartes
melambrotus

Amazon Basin
Amazon Basin
of tropical South America

California condor Gymnogyps
Gymnogyps
californianus

California, and formerly widespread in the mountains of western North America.[19]

Andean condor Vultur
Vultur
gryphus

Andes[20]

King vulture Sarcoramphus
Sarcoramphus
papa

Southern Mexico to northern Argentina

Extinct species and fossils[edit] The fossil history of the Cathartidae is complex, and many taxa that may possibly have been New World vultures have at some stage been treated as early representatives of the family.[21] There is no unequivocal European record from the Neogene.

Fossil of the extinct Breagyps
Breagyps
clarki

It is clear that the Cathartidae had a much higher diversity in the Plio-Pleistocene, rivalling the current diversity of Old World vultures and their relatives in shapes, sizes, and ecological niches. Extinct taxa are:

Diatropornis ("European vulture") Late Eocene/Early Oligocene – ?Middle Oligocene of France[22] Phasmagyps Chadronian of Colorado[22][23] Cathartidae gen. et sp. indet. Late Oligocene of Mongolia[22] Brasilogyps Late Oligocene/Early Miocene of Brazil[22] Hadrogyps ("American dwarf vulture") Middle Miocene of SW North America[22] Cathartidae gen. et sp. indet. Late Miocene/Early Pliocene of Lee Creek Mine, USA[24] Pliogyps ("Miocene vulture") Late Miocene – Late Pliocene of S North America[22] Perugyps ("Peruvian vulture") Pisco Late Miocene/Early Pliocene of SC Peru[24] Dryornis ("Argentinean vulture") Early – Late? Pliocene of Argentina; may belong to modern genus Vultur[22] Cathartidae gen. et sp. indet. Middle Pliocene of Argentina[24] Aizenogyps ("South American vulture") Late Pliocene of SE North America[22] Breagyps
Breagyps
("long-legged vulture") Late Pleistocene of SW North America[22] Geronogyps Late Pleistocene of Argentina and Peru[22] Gymnogyps
Gymnogyps
varonai Late Quaternary of Cuba [25] Wingegyps Late Pleistocene of Brazil[26] Pleistovultur Late Pleistocene/Early Holocene
Holocene
of Brazil[27] Cathartidae gen. et sp. indet. Cuba[28]

Description[edit]

The featherless head of the American black vulture, Coragyps
Coragyps
atratus brasiliensis, reduces bacterial growth from eating carrion.

New World vultures are generally large, ranging in length from the lesser yellow-headed vulture at 56–61 centimeters (22–24 inches) up to the California and Andean condors, both of which can reach 120 centimeters (48 inches) in length and weigh 12 or more kilograms (26 or more pounds). Plumage is predominantly black or brown, and is sometimes marked with white. All species have featherless heads and necks.[29] In some, this skin is brightly colored, and in the king vulture it is developed into colorful wattles and outgrowths. All New World vultures have long, broad wings and a stiff tail, suitable for soaring.[30] They are the best adapted to soaring of all land birds.[31] The feet are clawed but weak and not adapted to grasping.[32] The front toes are long with small webs at their bases.[33] No New World vulture
New World vulture
possesses a syrinx,[34] the vocal organ of birds. Therefore the voice is limited to infrequent grunts and hisses.[35] The beak is slightly hooked and is relatively weak compared with those of other birds of prey.[32] This is because it is adapted to tear the weak flesh of partially rotted carrion, rather than fresh meat.[31] The nostrils are oval and are set in a soft cere.[36] The nasal passage is not divided by a septum (it is "perforate"), so that when looking from the side, one can see through the beak.[37] The eyes are prominent, and, unlike those of eagles, hawks, and falcons, they are not shaded by a brow bone.[36] Members of Coragyps
Coragyps
and Cathartes
Cathartes
have a single incomplete row of eyelashes on the upper lid and two rows on the lower lid, while Gymnogyps, Vultur, and Sarcoramphus
Sarcoramphus
lack eyelashes altogether.[38] New World vultures have the unusual habit of urohidrosis, or defecating on their legs to cool them evaporatively. As this behavior is also present in storks, it is one of the arguments for a close relationship between the two groups.[5] Distribution and habitat[edit] New World vultures are restricted to the western hemisphere. They can be found from southern Canada to South America.[39] Most species are mainly resident, but the turkey vulture populations breeding in Canada and the northern US migrate south in the northern winter.[40] New World vultures inhabit a large variety of habitats and ecosystems, ranging from deserts to tropical rainforests and at heights of sea level to mountain ranges,[39] using their highly adapted sense of smell to locate carrion. These species of birds are also occasionally seen in human settlements, perhaps emerging to feed upon the food sources provided from roadkills.[citation needed] Behaviour and ecology[edit] Breeding[edit] New World vultures and condors do not build nests, but lay eggs on bare surfaces. On average one to three eggs are laid, depending on the species.[29] Chicks are naked on hatching and later grow down. Like most birds the parents feed the young by regurgitation.[36] The young are altricial, fledging in 2 to 3 months.[35] Feeding[edit]

American black vultures on a horse carcass

All living species of New World vultures and condors are scavengers. Their diet is overwhelmingly composed of carrion, and they are commonly seen in carcasses. Other additions to the diet include fruit (especially rotten fruit) and garbage. An unusual characteristic of the species in genus Cathartes
Cathartes
is a highly developed sense of smell, which they use to find carrion. They locate carrion by detecting the scent of ethyl mercaptan, a gas produced by the bodies of decaying animals. The olfactory lobe of the brains in these species, which is responsible for processing smells, is particularly large compared to that of other animals.[41] Other species, such as the American black vulture and the king vulture, have weak senses of smell and find food only by sight, sometimes by following Cathartes
Cathartes
vultures and other scavengers.[34] The head and neck of New World vultures are featherless as an adaptation for hygiene; this lack of feathers prevents bacteria from the carrion it eats from ruining its feathers and exposes the skin to the sterilizing effects of the sun.[42] Tolerance to bacterial toxins in decaying meat[edit] Vultures
Vultures
possess a very acidic digestive system and their gut is dominated by two species of anaerobic bacteria that help them withstand toxins they ingest when feeding on decaying prey.[43] In a 2014 study of 50 (turkey and black) vultures, researchers analyzed the microbial community or microbiome of the facial skin and the large intestine.[44] The facial bacterial flora and the gut flora overlapped somewhat, but in general, the facial flora was much more diverse than the gut flora, which is in contrast to other vertebrates, where the gut flora is more diverse. Two anaerobic faecal bacteria groups that are pathogenic in other vertebrates stood out: Clostridia
Clostridia
and Fusobacteria. They were especially common in the gut with Clostridia DNA sequence
DNA sequence
counts between 26% and 85% relative to total sequence counts, and Fusobacteria
Fusobacteria
between 0.2% and 54% in black vultures and 2% to 69% of all counts in turkey vultures. Unexpectedly, both anaerobic bacteria were also found on the air exposed facial skin samples, Clostridia
Clostridia
at 7%–40% and Fusobacteria
Fusobacteria
up to 23%. It is assumed that vultures acquire them when they insert their heads into the body cavities of rotten meat. The regularly ingested Clostridia
Clostridia
and Fusobacteria
Fusobacteria
outcompete other bacterial groups in the gut and become predominant. Genes that encode tissue-degrading enzymes and toxins that are associated with Clostridium perfringens
Clostridium perfringens
have been found in the vulture gut metagenome. This supports the hypothesis that vultures do benefit from the bacterial breakdown of carrion, while at the same time tolerating the bacterial toxins.[44] Status and conservation[edit] The California condor
California condor
is critically endangered. It formerly ranged from Baja California to British Columbia, but by 1937 was restricted to California.[19] In 1987, all surviving birds were removed from the wild into a captive breeding program to ensure the species' survival.[19] In 2005, there were 127 Californian condors in the wild. As of October 31, 2009 there were 180 birds in the wild.[45] The Andean condor
Andean condor
is near threatened.[20] The American black vulture, turkey vulture, lesser yellow-headed vulture, and greater yellow-headed vulture are listed as species of Least Concern by the IUCN Red List. This means that populations appear to remain stable, and they have not reached the threshold of inclusion as a threatened species, which requires a decline of more than 30 percent in ten years or three generations. The king vulture is also listed as Least Concern, although there is evidence of a decline in the population.[46] In culture[edit] The American black vulture
American black vulture
and the king vulture appear in a variety of Maya hieroglyphs in Mayan codices. The king vulture is one of the most common species of birds represented.[47] Its glyph is easily distinguishable by the knob on the bird's beak and by the concentric circles that represent the bird's eyes.[47] It is sometimes portrayed as a god with a human body and a bird head.[47] According to Mayan mythology, this god often carried messages between humans and the other gods. It is also used to represent Cozcaquauhtli, the thirteenth day of the month in the Mayan calendar.[47] In Mayan codices, the American black vulture
American black vulture
is normally connected with death or shown as a bird of prey, and its glyph is often depicted attacking humans. This species lacks the religious connections that the king vulture has. While some of the glyphs clearly show the American black vulture's open nostril and hooked beak, some are assumed to be this species because they are vulture-like and painted black, but lack the king vulture's knob.[47] See also[edit]

Old World vultures Birds of prey

Notes[edit]

^ Myers (2008) ^ Brookes (2006) ^ Phillips (2000) ^ Johnson "et al." 2013 ^ a b Sibley and Ahlquist (1991) ^ de Boer (1975) ^ Ligon (1967) ^ König (1982) ^ Griffiths (1994) ^ Fain & Houde (2004) ^ Avise (1994) ^ Brown (2009) ^ Cracraft et al. (2004) ^ Gibb et al. (2007) ^ Ericson et al. (2006) ^ a b c d Jarvis, E. D.; Mirarab, S.; Aberer, A. J.; Li, B.; Houde, P.; Li, C.; Ho, S. Y. W.; Faircloth, B. C.; Nabholz, B.; Howard, J. T.; Suh, A.; Weber, C. C.; Da Fonseca, R. R.; Li, J.; Zhang, F.; Li, H.; Zhou, L.; Narula, N.; Liu, L.; Ganapathy, G.; Boussau, B.; Bayzid, M. S.; Zavidovych, V.; Subramanian, S.; Gabaldon, T.; Capella-Gutierrez, S.; Huerta-Cepas, J.; Rekepalli, B.; Munch, K.; et al. (2014). "Whole-genome analyses resolve early branches in the tree of life of modern birds" (PDF). Science. 346 (6215): 1320–1331. doi:10.1126/science.1253451. PMC 4405904 . PMID 25504713.  ^ a b Hackett et al. (2008) ^ Griffiths, C. S.; Barrowclough, G. F.; Groth, J. G.; Mertz, L. A. (2007-11-06). "Phylogeny, diversity, and classification of the Accipitridae
Accipitridae
based on DNA sequences of the RAG-1 exon". Journal of Avian Biology. 38 (5): 587–602. doi:10.1111/j.2007.0908-8857.03971.x.  ^ a b c BirdLife International (2009a) ^ a b BirdLife International (2009) ^ Mayr (2006) ^ a b c d e f g h i j Emslie (1988) ^ Wetmore, A. (1927). "Fossil Birds from the Oligocene of Colorado" (PDF). Proceedings of the Colorado
Colorado
Museum of Natural History. 7 (2): 1–14.  ^ a b c Stucchi (2005) ^ Suárez (2003) ^ Alvarenga (2004). ^ Alvarenga et al. (2008). ^ Suarez (2004) ^ a b Zim et al. (2001) ^ Reed (1914) ^ a b Ryser & Ryser (1985) ^ a b Krabbe (1990) ^ Feduccia (1999) ^ a b Kemp and Newton (2003) ^ a b Howell and Webb (1995) ^ a b c Terres (1991) ^ Allaby (1992) ^ Fisher (1942) ^ a b Harris (2009) ^ Farmer (2008) ^ Snyder (2006) ^ Stone (1992) ^ Will Dunham (26 November 2014). "Gut check: how vultures dine on rotting flesh, and like it". Reuters. Thomson Reuters. Retrieved 27 November 2014.  ^ a b Michael Roggenbuck; Ida Bærholm Schnell; Nikolaj Blom; et al. (25 November 2014). "The microbiome of New World vultures". Nature Communications. 5 (5498). doi:10.1038/ncomms6498.  ^ "San Diego Zoo's Animal
Animal
Bytes: California Condor". The Zoological Society of San Diego's Center for Conservation and Research for Endangered Species. Retrieved 2009-12-29.  ^ BirdLife International (2001) ^ a b c d e Tozzer (1910)

References[edit]

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(2010) Check-list of North American Birds, Tinamiformes to Falconiformes 7th Edition. AOU. Retrieved 3 August 2010 Avise, J. C.; Nelson, W. S. & Sibley, C. G. (1994) "DNA sequence support for a close phylogenetic relationship between some storks and New World vultures" Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 91(11): 5173–5177. doi:10.1073/pnas.91.11.5173 (PDF). Erratum, PNAS
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aura University of Michigan Animal
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Diversity Web. Retrieved 8 October 2009 Feduccia, J. Alan. (1999) The Origin and Evolution of Birds Yale University Press ISBN 0-226-05641-4 p. 300 Fisher, Harvey I (1942). "The Pterylosis of the Andean Condor". Condor. 44 (1): 30–32. doi:10.2307/1364195.  Gibb, G. C.; Kardailsky, O.; Kimball, R. T.; Braun, E. L.; Penny, D. (2007). "Mitochondrial genomes and avian phylogeny: complex characters and resolvability without explosive radiations". Molecular Biology and Evolution. 24: 269–280. doi:10.1093/molbev/msl158. PMID 17062634.  Harris, Tim (2009). Complete Birds Of The World. Washington D.C: National Geographic Society. ISBN 978-1-4262-0403-6.  p. 72 Hackett, Shannon J.; Kimball, Rebecca T.; Reddy, Sushma; Bowie, Rauri C. K.; Braun, Edward L.; Braun, Michael J.; Chojnowski, Jena L.; Cox, W. Andrew; Han, Kin-Lan; Harshman, John; Huddleston, Christopher J.; Marks, Ben D.; Miglia, Kathleen J.; Moore, William S.; Sheldon, Frederick H.; Steadman, David W.; Witt, Christopher C.; Yuri, Tamaki (2008). "A phylogenomic study of birds reveals their evolutionary history". Science. 320 (5884): 1763–68. doi:10.1126/science.1157704. PMID 18583609.  Howell, Steve N.G., and Sophie Webb (1995). A Guide to the Birds of Mexico and Northern Central America. New York: Oxford University Press ISBN 0-19-854012-4, p. 174 Johnson, J.A., Brown, J.W., Fuchs, J. and Mindell, D.P., 2016. Multi-locus phylogenetic inference among New World Vultures
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(Aves: Cathartidae). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, 105, pp. 193–199. Kemp, Alan, and Ian Newton (2003): New World Vultures. In Christopher Perrins, ed., The Firefly Encyclopedia of Birds. Firefly Books. ISBN 1-55297-777-3. p. 146 Krabbe, Niels & Fjeldså, Jon. 1990: Birds of the High Andes. Apollo Press ISBN 87-88757-16-1 p. 88 Ligon, J. D. (1967). "Relationships of the cathartid vultures". Occasional Papers of the Museum of Zoology, University of Michigan. 651: 1–26.  Mayr, G (2006). "A new raptorial bird from the Middle Eocene
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University of California Press ISBN 0-520-21980-5 p,377 Reed, Chester Albert (1914): The bird book: illustrating in natural colors more than seven hundred North American birds, also several hundred photographs of their nests and eggs. University of Wisconsin. p. 198 Remsen, J. V., Jr., C. D. Cadena, A. Jaramillo, M. Nores, J. F. Pacheco, M. B. Robbins, T. S. Schulenberg, F. G. Stiles, D. F. Stotz, and K. J. Zimmer. A classification of the bird species of South America. American Ornithologists' Union. Ryser Fred A. & A. Ryser, Fred Jr. 1985: Birds of the Great Basin: A Natural History. University of Nevada Press. ISBN 0-87417-080-X p. 211 Sibley, Charles G. and Burt L. Monroe (1990) Distribution and Taxonomy of the Birds of the World. Yale University Press. ISBN 0-300-04969-2 Sibley, Charles G., and Jon E. Ahlquist (1991) Phylogeny and Classification of Birds: A Study in Molecular Evolution. Yale University Press. ISBN 0-300-04085-7 Snyder, Noel F. R. & Snyder, Helen (2006). Raptors of North America: Natural History and Conservation. Voyageur Press. ISBN 0-7603-2582-0 p. 40 Stone, Lynn M. (1992) Vultures
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Rourke Publishing Group ISBN 0-86593-193-3 p. 14 (in Spanish) Stucchi, Marcelo; Emslie Steven D. (2005) "Un Nuevo Cóndor (Ciconiiformes, Vulturidae) del Mioceno Tardío-Plioceno Temprano de la Formación Pisco, Perú." The Condor
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107:(1) 107 113 doi:10.1650/7475 Suárez, W.; Emslie, S.D. (2003). "New fossil material with a redescription of the extinct condor Gymnogyps
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varonai (Arredondo, 1971) from the Quaternary of Cuba (Aves: Vulturidae)" (PDF). Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington. 116 (1): 29–37.  Suarez, William (2004) "The identity of the fossil raptor of the genus Amplibuteo (Aves: Accipitridae) from the Quaternary of Cuba" Caribbean Journal of Science 40: (1) 120 125 Terres, J. K. & National Audubon Society
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External links[edit]

New World Vulture
Vulture
videos, photos and sounds on the Internet Bird Collection New World Vulture
Vulture
sounds on xeno-canto.org New World Vulture
Vulture
photos on beautyofbirds.com

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Cathartidae (New World vultures).

v t e

Vultures

Kingdom: Animalia Phylum: Chordata Class: Aves

Cathartidae (New World vultures)

Cathartes

Turkey vulture
Turkey vulture
( Cathartes
Cathartes
aura) Lesser yellow-headed vulture
Lesser yellow-headed vulture
( Cathartes
Cathartes
burrovianus) Greater yellow-headed vulture
Greater yellow-headed vulture
( Cathartes
Cathartes
melambrotus)

Coragyps

American black vulture
American black vulture
( Coragyps
Coragyps
atratus)

Sarcoramphus

King vulture
King vulture
( Sarcoramphus
Sarcoramphus
papa)

Gymnogyps

California condor
California condor
( Gymnogyps
Gymnogyps
californianus)

Vultur

Andean condor
Andean condor
( Vultur
Vultur
gryphus)

Accipitridae: Gypaetinae (eagle-vultures)

Eutriorchis

Madagascan serpent eagle
Madagascan serpent eagle
(Eutriorchis astur)

Gypohierax

Palm-nut vulture
Palm-nut vulture
(Gypohierax angolensis)

Polyboroides

Madagascan harrier-hawk
Madagascan harrier-hawk
( Polyboroides
Polyboroides
radiatus) African harrier-hawk ( Polyboroides
Polyboroides
typus)

Neophron

Egyptian vulture
Egyptian vulture
(Neophron percnopterus)

Gypaetus

Bearded vulture
Bearded vulture
(Gypaetus barbatus)

Accipitridae: Gypinae (Old World vultures)

Sarcogyps

Red-headed vulture
Red-headed vulture
(Sarcogyps calvus)

Trigonoceps

White-headed vulture
White-headed vulture
(Trigonoceps occipitalis)

Aegypius

Cinereous vulture
Cinereous vulture
(Aegypius monachus)

Torgos

Lappet-faced vulture
Lappet-faced vulture
(Torgos tracheliotos)

Necrosyrtes

Hooded vulture
Hooded vulture
(Necrosyrtes monachus)

Gyps

White-rumped vulture
White-rumped vulture
( Gyps
Gyps
bengalensis) Himalayan vulture
Himalayan vulture
( Gyps
Gyps
himalayensis) White-backed vulture
White-backed vulture
( Gyps
Gyps
africanus) Rüppell's vulture
Rüppell's vulture
( Gyps
Gyps
rueppellii) Griffon vulture
Griffon vulture
( Gyps
Gyps
fulvus) Indian vulture
Indian vulture
( Gyps
Gyps
indicus) Slender-billed vulture
Slender-billed vulture
( Gyps
Gyps
tenuirostris) Cape vulture
Cape vulture
( Gyps
Gyps
coprothere)

Related topics

Diclofenac Indian vulture
Indian vulture
crisis

v t e

Order: Accipitriformes

Family

Sagittaridae (Secretarybird) Pandionidae (Osprey) Accipitridae
Accipitridae
(Buzzards, eagles, harriers, hawks, kites, and Old World vultures)

Taxon identifiers

Wd: Q184858 ADW: Cathartidae EoL: 2922049 EPPO: 1KTHSF Fossilworks: 99060 GBIF: 3242141 ITIS: 175263 NCBI:

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