3rd September 2022

As it’s Vulture Awareness Day on September 3rd, we wanted to shine a light on how remarkable these stunning birds truly are, and share ten facts about their brilliant history and interesting habits.

1. Vultures are nature's cleaners

Vultures are carnivorous animals, eating carrion almost exclusively. This is also why they all have bald heads - so flesh doesn’t stick to them while eating, as it would to feathers! They have an incredibly important ecological role, as their unique eating habits help to prevent the spread of disease (even anthrax!) in the environment by clearing away rotting corpses. Many farmers still persecute vultures as they believe the myth that they prey on healthy animals (thus affecting their business). This is simply not true. They lack the strong grip of other raptors to be able to attack prey in this manner, and use their beak exclusively to rip into flesh.

2. Vultures have incredible sight and smell!

They have the largest olfactory (smelling) system of any bird, meaning they can locate a dead body from a mile or more away, often soaring large territories in the air looking for their next meal. This is a unique skill in the bird world. They can travel up to 200 miles a day on the lookout for food!

3. Vultures bond for life and love their babies.

Vultures attain sexual maturity at 5 years of age, and as monogamous birds, they mate for life. The breeding season lasts for 6 months, from Oct-April, and in each year they lay only one-two eggs. To feed their young, they eat any flesh they find on their look-outs and then regurgitate the food from their crop back at the nest. They cannot carry any food back to their hatchling as they have weak feet and legs.

4. Vultures have lots of pals

Unlike many other raptor species, vultures love friends, often flying or roosting in large flocks. A group together is called a committee, venue or volt! In flight they are known as a kettle. And when feeding together at a dead body, they are known as a wake!

5. Vultures can vomit mid-flight!

To escape threat in the air, a vulture can vomit to reduce their body weight and evade capture. It also acts as a defense mechanism to deter the predator.

6. Vultures live all over the world

Vultures have adapted to many different environments worldwide. There are 23 species, and are present on every continent apart from Australia and Antarctica. They are therefore highly adaptable to a range of different habitats, including suburbs, yet, sadly, they are still considered either threatened or endangered.

7. Vultures are known under many different names

In the United States they are often referred to as “condors” or, wrongly, “buzzards”. The buzzard term is generally referring to the turkey vulture. Vulture species can be divided into two groups - Old World (Europe, Asia and Africa), and New World (found in the Americas and Caribbean). Although all the species fill a similar ecological niche, New World vultures may be more closely related to storks than other raptors! 

8. Vultures don’t build nests

Common black vultures in particular, do not build nests. Instead they often lay eggs directly on the ground, or snuggle into dark cavities in hollow trees, caves, cliffs - and even abandoned buildings.

9. Vultures suffer at the hands of human interference

Although very hardy birds, human interference and interaction has led to many vultures facing heightened threats to their safety. Poisoning is a rife issue with vultures, killing many birds each year, primarily from toxins such as antibiotics or lead present in the carcasses they often consume. Car collisions when feeding on roadkill, or electrocution from power line collisions are also a huge danger to vultures. 

10. Vultures deserve our respect and care

Vultures are incredible birds that serve an important role in the ecosystem. They love their young, and experience social bonds that bring joy and happiness to their lives. Humans must learn to live alongside them, and not persecute or harm them for trying to survive in an ever decreasing natural world. 

Vultures have spent a lot of time in the news recently, mostly due to the hardships they are experiencing because of environmental issues, disease, and human interference. Bird flu is currently rife in the species, killing thousands of birds worldwide. Sadly, they are also commonly used in falconry shows and zoos, where their natural behaviours are stifled, and their complex needs are not able to be met.

It’s time to end the captivity of all animals, including vultures!