King vulture

(Sarcoramphus papa)




Facts about this animal

The king vulture is a colourful, medium-sized New World vulture with a length of up to 80 cm, a wingspan of about 120 to 200 cm, and a body weight of about 2.7-4.5 kg .

The head and neck are bare. This helps to prevent bacteria and remains of the carcass from "fowling" up the feathers on the head. After eating, the vulture will relax in the sun and allow the heat to bake off the bacteria.

The iris is white, and the eyes are ringed with red. The beak is orange. The wings are broad and the tail short. Wings and upperside of tail are black. The underside of the wings and chest are white.

King vultures are scavengers. They feed on rotting carcasses which could potentially spread disease. They are also able to utilize a food resource which few animals take advantage of.

Did you know?
that the king vulture has one of the most powerful beaks of all American vultures and can open a carcass that other vultures cannot? For this reason, they often eat first and other vultures feed off the remains.


Class AVES
Name (Scientific) Sarcoramphus papa
Name (English) King vulture
Name (French) Vautour roi
Name (German) Königsgeier
Name (Spanish) Zopilote rey
CITES Status Appendix III (Honduras and Austria)
CMS Status Appendix II (as Cathartidae spp.)



Photo Copyright by
Ruben Schönfeld



Range From Mexico to Argentina
Habitat Tropical lowland forests
Wild population Not yet threatened, but the populations of king vultures are in decline due to habitat destruction.
Zoo population 207 reported to ISIS (2007)

In the Zoo

King vulture


How this animal should be transported

Untrained birds travel better in completely dark boxes, with a carpeted floor and roof, with an upwards sliding door at one end and no perch. As a general rule, trained birds are easier to manage in boxes with a carpeted perch at the right height to give plenty of head and tail room, and with a hinged side opening door.

For air transport, Container Note 20 of the IATA Live Animals Regulations should be followed.


Find this animal on ZooLex


Photo Copyright by
April King

Why do zoos keep this animal

This colourful, attractive New World Vulture is an excellent ambassador species for its threatened habitat, the neotropical lowland forest. It is also of educational interest as an example of the Cathartidae family.