Vulture, any of 22 species of large carrion-eating birds that live predominantly in the tropics and subtropics. The seven species of New World vultures include condors, and the 15 Old World species include the lammergeier and griffons. Although many members of the two groups appear similar, they are only distantly related.All of the New World vultures and some of the Old World vultures have bare heads, a condition that prevents feathers from matting with blood when the birds reach inside carcasses. Most vultures have a large pouch in the throat (crop) and can go for long periods without food—adaptations to a feast-or-famine scavenging lifestyle. In some species the beak is exceptionally strong and heavy for tearing hide, muscle, and even bone. Eyesight in all vultures is well developed, as is the sense of smell in the turkey vulture. Old World vultures have relatively strong feet, but New World Vultures have flat, weak feet that are poorly adapted for grasping.
Vultures are widely distributed, but they are absent from Australia and most oceanic islands. Most have broad food habits, consuming carrion, garbage, and even excrement, but rarely do they descend upon live animals. A few occasionally take helpless prey such as lambs and tortoises or, in the case of Andean condors, newborn calves. Vultures may remain aloft for hours, soaring gracefully on long, broad wings. When one bird descends to a dead or dying animal, others may be attracted from miles away. When feeding, vultures maintain a strict social order based on body size and strength of beak. Smaller vultures must wait for the scraps left behind by the larger, dominant species. Even large vultures, however, give way to nearly all mammalian competitors, including jackals, hyenas, and coyotes.
*Please click the green link for further info.