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Sunday, June 17, 2012

King Vulture

Beauty Of Animal | King Vulture | The King Vulture (Sarcoramphus papa) is a large bird found in Central and South America. It is a member of the New World vulture family Cathartidae. This vulture lives predominantly in tropical lowland forests stretching from southern Mexico to northern Argentina. Large and predominantly white, the King Vulture has gray to black ruff, flight, and tail feathers. The King Vulture has a very noticeable yellow fleshy caruncle on its beak. It also displaces smaller New World vulture species from a carcass. King Vultures have been known to live for up to 30 years in captivity.
King Vultures were popular figures in the Mayan codices as well as in local folklore and medicine. The species name is derived from Latin word papa "bishop", alluding the bird's plumage resembling the clothing of one. The King Vulture's closest living relative is the Andean Condor, Vultur gryphus. There are two theories on how the King Vulture earned the "King" part of its common name.
The exact systematic placement of the King Vulture and the remaining six species of New World vultures remains unclear.Though both are similar in appearance and have similar ecological roles, the New World and Old World vultures evolved from different ancestors in different parts of the world.. Like other New World vultures, the King Vulture has a diploid chromosome number of 80.
The genus Sarcoramphus, which today contains only the King Vulture, had a wider distribution in the past. The Kern Vulture (Sarcoramphus kernense), lived in southwestern North America during the mid-Pliocene (Piacenzian), some 3.5–2.5 million years ago) The fossil record, though scant, supports the theory that the ancestral King Vultures and South American Condors separated at least some 5 mya.
Excluding the two species of condors, the King Vulture is the largest of the New World vultures. Its overall length ranges from 67–81 centimeters (27–32 in) and its wingspan is 1.2–2 meters (4–6.6 ft). Its weight ranges from 2.7–4.5 kilograms (6–10 lb). An imposing bird, the adult King Vulture has predominantly white plumage, which has a slight rose-yellow tinge to it.The King Vulture has the largest skull and braincase, and strongest bill of the New World vultures. Unlike some New World vultures, the King Vulture lacks eyelashes.
The vulture is minimally sexually dimorphic, with no difference in plumage and little in size between males and females. The juvenile vulture has a dark bill and eyes, and a downy, gray neck that soon begins to turn the orange of an adult. Dark-plumaged immature birds may be confused with Turkey Vultures, but soar with flat wings, while the pale plumaged adults could feasibly be confused with the Wood Stork,although the latter's long neck and legs allow for easy recognition from afar.
The King Vulture soars for hours effortlessly, only flapping its wings infrequently.While in flight, its wings are held flat with slightly raised tips, and from a distance the vulture can appear to be headless while in flight. . It is non-migratory and, unlike the Turkey, Lesser Yellow-headed and American Black Vulture, it generally lives alone or in small family groups. King Vultures have lived up to 30 years in captivity, though their lifespan in the wild is unknown.
This vulture uses urohidrosis, defecating on its legs, to lower its body temperature. An adult King Vulture sexually matures when it is about four or five years old, with females maturing slightly earlier than males.The birds mainly breed during the dry season. King Vultures mate for life and generally lay a single unmarked white egg in its nest in a hollow in a tree.To ward off potential predators, the vultures keep their nests foul-smelling. 

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