Vulture, a large bird of prey. A typical vulture feeds mainly on carrion (decaying flesh) and has a featherless head. There are about 15 species of Old World vultures, which belong to the same family as hawks and eagles, and seven species of New World vultures. The best-known New World vultures are the buzzard, or turkey vulture, and the condors.. The rest of this article is about Old World vultures.

Vultures are extremely graceful in flight. They glide on rising currents of air as they search for food and can reach a height of 10,000 feet (3,000 m). Vultures build large nests of sticks in trees or on cliff ledges. In many species, a mated pair will raise its young in the same nest every year.

The griffon vulture, or tawny vulture, which is native to Europe, Africa, and Asia, is one of the largest vultures. It grows to a length of 4 feet (1.2 m) and its wingspan can reach 10 feet (3 m). The palm-nut vulture, of tropical Africa, is unlike other vultures in that it has a largely vegetarian diet. Its main food is the fruit of the oil palm. The lammergeier, or bearded vulture, is unusual in that it has a fully feathered head.

The African lammergeierThe African lammergeier is a large vulture.
What Do Vultures Eat?

Vultures do not hunt live animals. Instead, they feed on carrion. Carrion is the meat of an animal that is already dead. Some vultures eat scraps left by predators such as hyenas or lions.

Unlike other birds of prey, vultures have weak feet. Perhaps this is because they don’t use their feet to catch and kill prey. Their heads and necks are bare, too. This helps vultures keep clean during messy meals.

There are two groups of vultures. Vultures that live in Africa, Asia, and Europe are called Old World vultures. They belong to the same family as hawks and eagles. North and South American vultures, the New World vultures, make up their own family.

Wherever they live, vultures are important because they help clean the environment. They eat dead animals before the rotting bodies become a source of disease.

Old World vultures belong to the family Accipitridae. The griffon vulture is Gypsfulvus; the palm-nut vulture, Gypohierax angolensis; the lammergeier. Gypaëtus barbatus.