What Do Vultures Eat? It's Disgusting!
But It Works for Them

The vulture's eating patterns are different from other birds. To explore what they like and what they dislike, read ahead.

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Iñigo Navarro

October 17, 2021


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What’s This Post About?

Vultures are medium to large-sized birds with a very unpleasant scent. There are 23 vulture species present across the globe. They use air currents to fly high above the Earth’s surface and have a perfect sense of smell and excellent eyesight.

They use their eyesight to spot animal carcasses on the ground, then fly down to feast on them. Their presence is crucial as it plays a massive part in maintaining the ecosystem. In addition, these intelligent bird species acquire multiple unique features and help prevent diseases resulting from dead animal bodies.

Vultures are carnivores and eat carrion (animal carcasses) primarily. They prefer munching on fresh meat but can also feed on rotten carcasses. Palm-nut vultures feed on fruits of oil palms. Some vulture species also hunt and eat small prey such as lizards, insects, rodents, and smaller birds.

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What Are Vultures: Description, Habitat, And Behavior?

All about vultures and their behavior.

Vultures are large-sized birds with heavy bodies and hunched postures. They have bushy feathers that are well spread. Most vultures are blackish-brown with paler underparts. Some vulture species also have deep blue or red throats and heads. 

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Many vulture species exist in this world. Some common vulture species are:

  • Turkey Vulture.
  • Black Vulture.
  • Griffon Vulture.
  • Bearded Vulture.
  • Cinereous Vulture.
  • King Vulture.
  • Andean Condor.
  • Egyptian Vulture.

One unique feature that vultures are born with is their bald head and sometimes a hairless throat. This baldness helps them dive their head into carcasses and come out with a clean face. Baldness also helps to regulate a vulture’s body temperature.

These birds have a strong, straightened beak that helps them rip open dead carcasses. In addition, they have a wingspan of about 2.7 meters; this aids the birds when they fly in search of food.

FUN FACT

Vultures prefer nesting on treetops. Their nests are made up of twigs, hair, rags, wool, etc., and are the size of a king bed.

Habitat

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Vultures look for habitats that allow them to see or sense carrion even when elevated in the sky. Their habitat includes savannas, plains, and grassland. Some vultures perch in open mountain regions, while some reside in suburban areas.

INTERESTING FACT

Vultures have a defense mechanism where they vomit when they feel threatened. They throw up all contents of their stomach to distract the predator and fly off rapidly.

Distribution

There are many vulture species present on Earth. These birds are found on all continents except Antarctica and Australia. Unfortunately, these birds are on the verge of becoming extinct, which is why they need to be protected at all costs.

INTERESTING FACT

A group of vultures perched together is a kettle, committee, venue, or volt.

Behavior

Vultures are friendly birds that fly in flocks. They can fly at the speed of 48 km per hour. These birds can fly for a long time at high altitudes without getting exhausted.

Vultures fly in a circular pattern to elevate themselves and glide on the thermal updrafts that support their flight.

Vultures have a unique behavior where they urinate on their legs to feel less warm. This helps them cool their bodies and kills off germs they may have carried when indulging in dead animals.

FUN FACT

A belief states that vultures can predict everything, even the football scores or the winning lottery numbers.

What Do Vultures Eat?

All about the feeding habits of vultures.

Vultures mainly consume freshly killed animals. These bird species are carnivores and only feed on carrion that is a dead carcass. Vultures are seen gliding over savannas in search of food sources. They also eat scraps from human habitats, depending on what is easily and readily available.

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Vultures And Dead Animals

One of the reasons for a vulture’s migration is to search for food. Most birds of prey hunt and attack live prey; however, vultures are restricted to eating ‘dead’ animals only. As a result, it is common to see various vulture species come together to feed on one carcass.

Vultures share huge carcasses with their fellow vulture, regardless of which species they belong to. On large carrions like Elephants, thousands of vultures can be seen wrangling over the body.

They make different noises like hisses, grunts, and cackles while they dip their bare necks into the skin of the dead animal.

Post-meal, vultures are seen to clean themselves together with other species at a common site. Then, they bathe and rest while spreading their wings in the sun to dry. Vultures do eat messily, but they are very particular about cleanliness.

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Additionally, vultures can eat and digest meat quickly. They sometimes also feed on decaying meat if necessary. Their digestive built is such that they can avoid the diseases developed with the germs obtained from dead carcasses. This, in a way, saves other animals that might die if they go through these diseases.

Vultures have a highly acidic stomach that helps them tolerate dead or decaying animal bodies without getting sick or dying. This is why they can avoid the consequences of infections like hog cholera, botulinum toxin, and anthrax bacteria that can be deadly for other predators.

This also helps them defend themselves when threatened. The acidic, reeking vomit can be formed using bacteria and toxins that a vulture intake.

Moreover, if a dead body is thick and the vulture cannot access the meat inside, it waits for larger, more important scavengers to eat it first. When the scavengers leave, the vultures quickly take charge and feed on the remaining meat.

Most vultures strip only the meat and feathers of animals, while the others might also eat the bones, eyes, and other animal parts.

INTERESTING FACT

Vultures can consume 20% of their body weight in one proper sitting.

Vultures And Dead Humans

Vultures are made to eat dead leftovers, whether it is of an animal or a human. They are most likely to consume animal carcasses, but sometimes, they might quickly quarrel over it and eat it all if they spot a dead human body.

These birds are scavengers who hunt on dead bodies. There are some religious traditions where people feed the dead body of their loved ones to a vulture.

Vultures often start feeding on an animal from the back (anus) to taste the delicious entails of the meat.

FUN FACT

A vulture can eat up to 1 kg of meat in 1 minute.

Can Humans Eat a Vulture?

Vultures can feed on humans, but can humans prepare a vulture meal?

No, humans should not eat vulture meat. Vultures feed on dead animals, which makes these birds disease carriers. The decayed flesh that these birds consume infuses bacteria into their bodies and can get transferred into those who eat vulture meat.

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A vulture, also known as a buzzard, is a large bird that hunts on dead carcasses. These birds feed on rotten meat and take flight at high altitudes.

Vultures taste extremely bad. The decomposing bacteria in the vulture’s body releases toxins that make the vultures nonedible. This means, by eating vultures, you’re putting your health at stake.

If you feed on animals that consume other animals to survive, you will observe that they have a strong, unpleasant taste and smell.

Moreover, ‘The Migratory Bird Treaty Act’ forbids capturing, killing, trading, or selling multiple bird species, including vultures.

INTERESTING FACT

A vulture's digestive system has unique acids that dissolve harmful toxins like botulism, cholera bacteria, and anthrax.

Vultures And How They Taste

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Vultures taste awful. Their smell is similar to their taste; intolerable. The two main reasons for them to taste horrible are:

  • Diet
  • They urinate on themselves to keep their bodies cool

However, you can eat vulture eggs. The eggs are edible and perfect in taste. You can eat them without harming your health.

If you plan to eat vultures or their eggs, make sure you study the law first. You may get in trouble if you try moving, destroying, or harassing the nest or the eggs present in them.

FUN FACT

They urinate on themselves to keep their bodies cool

What Eats a Vulture?

Vultures prey on dead meat, but what preys on vultures?

Vultures are big birds that smell and taste terrible. This is why not many people or animals eat vultures. Sometimes, an eagle or a hawk might steal and eat a baby vulture from the nest, but adult vultures do not have to hide or fear other birds.

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Vultures mostly eat carrion, but other animals fear these birds enough not to harm them at any cost. This leads us to the question: are vultures dangerous? Please keep reading to find out more about them and whether these scavenger birds are a threat to living humans or animals.

INTERESTING FACT

Vultures do not attack healthy prey; they primarily look to kill dying or wounded animals.

Are Vultures Dangerous?

Do vultures pose a threat to humans and live animals? Read more to find out.

Vultures are harmless and friendly birds. They eat carrions primarily and do not intend to attack humans. Vultures benefit humans by removing animal waste from the roads, cities, and towns. These birds are defensive and protective about their nesting sites, but they do not attack or show aggression otherwise.

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Vulture Categories

There are two types of vultures: old-world vultures and new-world vultures. The new-world vultures are called the Cathartidae, while the old-world vultures are known as the Gypinae. Fifteen old-world species can be found in Asia, Europe, and Africa.

The new world vultures consist of 7 vulture species that are found primarily in North and South America. These two categories of vultures are not related, but the processes they go through and the characteristics they’ve inherited are somewhat similar.

FUN FACT

Old-world vultures do not have a good sense of smell. They are dependent on their eyesight to spot food and locate carcasses from even 4 miles away.

Vulture Vomit

Vultures might have an intimidating appearance. This is because of their size, color, and looks. However, they are pretty harmless creatures. They do not have the physical capability to threaten someone.

Even though these birds are carnivores, they feed primarily on dead animals. Some vultures throw up or puke as a defense mechanism. If a vulture feels threatened, it will vomit, which is the most they can do to protect themselves. Hence, they are disgusting but not dangerous.

Recyclers Of Waste

Vultures are valuable for the environment. They help complete the ecosystem. These birds are often found near towns as people dispose of garbage and waste to a large extent. This makes it a reliable food source for them. Food waste, road kills, livestock raising, etc., are all food supplies for vultures.

Vultures grab on to this opportunity and munch on these dead bodies, cleaning the roads and towns from all the rotten and decayed animal bodies and garbage. Without them, the waste would accumulate, distorting the ecosystems.

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INTERESTING FACT

Most vulture species stick to the same partner throughout their life.

Vultures Are Vulnerable

Multiple vulture species are moving towards extinction. In addition, globalization has led to habitat loss for many wild animals, including vultures.

Another factor that is harming the vulture species is Diclofenac that is an anti-inflammatory drug given to livestock. When vultures feed on the bodies of this livestock, their kidney fails, and they die.

It is crucial to protect these birds and conserve them by the breeding process. To captivate these large birds, it’s essential to befriend the vultures. This can be done by attracting these birds to your yard.

FUN FACT

Vultures can fly 6 to 7 hours a day, and they have an average speed of 22mph.

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Keep Reading!

Vultures are large, smelly birds that feed on dead animals or carrion. These are 22 species of vultures found all around the globe. This post discussed the feeding habits of vultures and the reason behind them eating dead animals.

These birds are not a threat to humans and are not afraid of any other animal. Hawks and owls only attack juvenile vultures and do not harm any adult vulture.

If you are interested in learning about other large birds, such as hawks, and what they like to eat, you should read this post .

Do Hawks Eat Hummingbirds? It's Shocking Why They Don't!

Are you here because you're confused if hawks like to prey on hummingbirds or not? Read ahead to find out.

Iñigo Navarro Picture

By Iñigo Navarro

Bird Watching USA

My name is Inigo and I'm the the founder of Bird Watching USA! I started Bird Watching with My father-in-law many years ago, and I've become an addict to watching these beautiful creatures. I've learnt so much over about bird watching over the years that I want to share with the world everything I know about them!

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Iñigo Navarro Picture

Iñigo Navarro

Bird Watching USA

My name is Inigo and I'm the the founder of Bird Watching USA! I started Bird Watching with My father-in-law many years ago, and I've become an addict to watching these beautiful creatures. I've learnt so much over about bird watching over the years that I want to share with the world everything I know about them!

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