Greater yellow-headed vulture
|Greater yellow-headed vulture|
|Conservation status||Least concern|
The greater yellow-headed vulture (Cathartes melambrotus) is a bird of prey of the family Cathartidae, and found in northern and central South America.
Greater yellow-headed vultures are 25 to 30 inches long and weighs about 3.6 pounds. It has a wing span of 5.4 to 5.8 feet, and its tail is 10 to 12 inches long. Males are the same size as the females. In the flight picture from below, the bird is black, the wings and the tail are brawny, the secondaries are lighter in color. The plumage itself is velvety black and shines more than that of the lesser yellow-headed vulture (Cathartes burrovianus); at one time it was thought that both birds were the same species. The head is naked and yellow, and is orange at the nape of the neck. The apex and skin in front of the eyes are blue-gray. The beak is whitish to pink. The legs are dirty white, with slightly darker feet.
Greater yellow-headed vultures live in untouched rainforests in the Amazon region; it will stray over open landscapes, but never far from woodlands. At the eastern edge of the Andes, it goes up to heights of 2,100 feet. It is also found in southwestern Colombia, southern Venezuela, the Orinoco delta, Guyana, Suriname and the eastern lowland of Peru. A small, possibly isolated occurrence is also in the middle of the Bolivian lowland.
Greater yellow-headed vultures search individually for carcasses of dead medium-sized mammals such as monkeys, sloths or opossums by scent; they are rarely seen in groups. At the carcass this bird is dominant over turkey vultures living in the same area. The flight of the greater yellow-headed vulture is more powerful and less rocking than that of the lesser yellow-headed vulture.