King Vulture - Sarcoramphus papa


The King Vulture occupies an important place in the Mayan codices. Its glyph is easily recognised by the caruncle on the beak and by the concentric circles surrounding the bird’s eyes. The King Vulture is sometimes represented as a god with the body of a man and the head of a bird. According to Mayan mythology, it carries messages between humans and the gods. It is also used to represent Cozcacuauhtli, the thirteenth day of the month in the Mayan calendar. It is called the King Vulture because when it arrives at dead bodies to feed, all the other vultures fly away. This bird is extremely colourful in adulthood, in contrast to its juvenile period when its feathers are completely black. As with all vultures, the food is predigested and then regurgitated to feed the young.


CLASS : Aves
ORDER : Cathartiformes
FAMILY : Cathartidae
WINGSPAN : 1.9 m
WEIGHT : 3 – 3.8 kg
INCUBATION : 53-58 days
DIET : it is necrophageous. It feeds on dead animals and carcasses.
NATURAL HABITAT : tropical rainforests, open areas (savannahs, prairies), undisturbed forests
RANGE : Central and South America

Conservation status

Conservation status info

Rocher des Aigles

LC : Least Concern

It is difficult to observe the King Vulture as it lives deep inside the forest. At a global level, the species is not currently under threat. However, it does remain vulnerable due to the destruction of its habitat, deforestation and poaching. In some countries, this species is legally protected.