The vulture is a bird that is frequently undervalued and misunderstood.
Even though there are only 23 different types of vultures in the world, each one of these birds fulfills an important ecological role.
Because they eat carrion, all of these birds contribute to the cleaning up of the environment, which helps stop the spread of diseases that old, rotting carcasses can carry.
These diseases could spread to other birds and animals, including humans.
They could also affect the soil and waterways, contaminating crops and other food and water sources with harmful germs and infections.
Unfortunately, 14 of the different types of vultures and condor species in the world are threatened or endangered, which is more than half of the total number of vulture bird species.
Some of these species have experienced considerable population reductions in recent years.
If urgent assistance is not provided, these vulture populations will continue to dwindle due to various dangers, such as being poisoned, killed in automobile collisions, and electrocuted.
The first step toward successful conservation is expanding one’s knowledge of these fascinating birds, and the first thing one should do is to become familiar with the various species of vultures as well as their common and scientific names of them.
Classification of Different Types of Vultures
Old World vultures and New World vultures are the primary categories we can use to classify different types of vultures.
There are considerable geographical and evolutionary differences between the two species, even though both occupy the same environmental niche as “nature’s clean-up crew” and share remarkable traits in common. In addition, both types show striking similarities.
1. New World Vultures
You’ll only find these vultures in the New World, specifically in North and South America, all the way from Canada to Argentina, as well as in the Caribbean.
They are classified as members of the family Cathartidae in the animal kingdom and contain seven different species of vultures and condors.
Although they are frequently referred to as birds of prey because of their carnivorous diets, these birds are more closely related to storks and herons than other real raptors.
Storks and herons are the only other birds that eat meat. In general, vultures from the New World have a highly developed sense of smell; however, the extent to which individual species rely on their sense of smell might vary greatly.
2. Old-world Vultures
They are members of the Accipitridae bird family. These vultures thrive in many parts of the world, including Europe, Asia, and Africa.
They do not have a great sense of smell, but they have sharp vision, allowing them to discover food sources by sight.
The other species of raptors that make up their taxonomic family, such as eagles, kites, harriers, buzzards, and hawks, are the birds of prey most closely related to these vultures.
These birds, along with their relatives that live in the New World, consume meat. The Old World is home to a total of 16 different species of vultures; however, the number could rise or fall depending on how closely related species are classified in the future.
Difference and Similarities
Vultures from both the New World and the Old World have heads that are bald or nearly bald, hefty bodies, broad wings, and hooked beaks.
Both types of vultures feed on carrion. When it comes to scavenging on carcasses and carrion, the two unique species behave in a manner that is very similar to one another.
They frequently congregate in huge groups at suitable food sources. Most of the different types of vultures around the world even favor predominantly tropical or subtropical environments with rather open vegetation.
Ornithologists have conducted genetic testing and analysis on the various species that belong to both groups of vultures.
Their findings have led them to conclude that the similarities result from convergent evolution.
Both families of birds developed apart from one another and are not linked to one another very closely genetically or biologically.
Instead, they formed their striking similarities due to similar environmental necessities during the millennia of their evolutionary process. This allowed them to maintain their close similarities.
Nevertheless, these birds face the same dangers everywhere in the world, and they all require our assistance to be able to keep doing their part to keep the environment clean.
List of Different Types of Vultures Around the World
1. Cape Vultures
- Scientific name: Gyps coprotheres
These vultures are only found in southern Africa. They are classified as vulnerable species because their natural habitats are becoming depleted of carrion, and farmers are using diclofenac to treat their livestock.
They have a wingspan of about 9 feet and can weigh up to 20 pounds, making them some of the largest on our list of different types of vultures. T
heir weight ranges from 10 to 20 pounds. This places them as the third largest vulture native to the Old World.
2. Lappet-faced Vultures
- Scientific name: Torgos tracheliotos
They are a species native to Africa, and you can find them in the south, east, central, and western parts of Africa, in addition to the Iberian Peninsula.
The length of their wingspan can reach up to 9.5 feet, and the pink coloration can identify them on their heads. The feathers seen on the neck are very fine.
Because they frequently bury their entire heads into corpses while they feed, evolution has given them an advantage that manifests as baldness.
Because they lack hair on their head, they do not have a significant amount of blood and intestines on them.
This makes it simple for them to maintain a clean environment, preventing them from attracting other types of predators.
3. White-headed Vultures
- Scientific name: Trigonoceps occipitalis
The population of these vultures, primarily found in sub-Saharan Africa, has been progressively decreasing due to a shortage of adequate prey for them to consume.
The most likely explanation for this phenomenon is that it is due to the expansion of both urban and agricultural habitats.
White-headed Vultures are similarly devoted to a certain location; unless compelled to leave, you won’t find them going elsewhere.
They are a species that prefers to be on their own and live in seclusion. However, territorial pairs can coexist within the same region.
In contrast to the majority of other types of vultures, this vulture flies at a rather low altitude.
They can locate their prey more readily as a result of this, and as a result, they are typically the first ones to begin feeding. When there is a lack of prey, they will engage in predatory behavior.
4. Black Vultures
- Scientific name: Coragyps atratus
The black vulture is a species of New World vulture prevalent throughout the southern and southeastern United States, Mexico, Central America, and virtually the whole continent of South America, except for the southernmost quarter.
They have a wing span of 5.5 feet and are black in color, as the name of their species might imply.
Vultures in Texas mostly feed on carrion, although when they nest in places that humans densely inhabit, they frequently forage in waste dumps.
Carrion is their primary food source. They can even consume plant matter that has decomposed.
5. Turkey Vultures
- Scientific name: Cathartes aura
The turkey vulture is one of the different types of vultures that you may find as far north as Canada.
They are native to the entire continent of South America, and you can find them as far north as Canada.
Their name comes from the appearance of their bald, red heads, which is reminiscent of the head of a wild turkey.
Even though carrion is their primary source of nutrition, they will occasionally consume plant matter.
They will murder a sick or dying person despite the fact that they are not predators. Vultures of this kind are frequently observed in North America, cleaning up dead animals that got hit by vehicles and feasting on fish that has washed ashore.
6. Greater Yellow-headed Vultures
- Scientific name: Cathartes melambrotus
These birds also referred to as forest vultures, are native to the region of South America that is further north.
There, their wingspans can almost approach 6 feet, and their heads are immediately distinguishable due to the bright yellow coloration on top of their skulls.
Because of the weakness of their beaks, they frequently have problems opening animal carcasses.
As a result, they are not typically the first species to begin consuming an animal’s remains after it has died.
Not only do these species of vultures in Brazil have excellent vision, but they also have a highly developed sense of smell, which isn’t very common among birds.
7. Lesser Yellow-headed Vultures
- Scientific name: Cathartes burrovianus
They share much of the same territory as the greater yellow-headed vulture, but the populations of the two species are more separate from one another. In addition, you can find them in the more northern parts of Central America.
Even though they are extremely similar to greater yellow-headed vultures, these different types of vultures are much smaller in all aspects, with darker plumage and a head that appears more orange than yellow.
Because they lack an acute sense of smell, lesser yellow-headed vultures are frequently followed by king vultures when they inhabit the same territory. King vultures also inhabit the same territory.
Because they are stronger, king vultures will open the carcass, making it possible for the lesser yellow-headed vulture to feed.
9. California Condors
- Scientific name: Gymnogyps californianus
The habitat of California condors is quite limited, as you can only find these birds in the state of California and certain sections of Arizona.
They have enormous wingspans, typically reaching up to 10 feet, although there have been unverified claims of wingspans reaching 11 feet.
Poaching, lead poisoning, and the deterioration of habitat are the primary threats to the survival of these vultures in California.
In addition, it takes a significant amount of time for them to reach sexual maturity, and each nest will only ever have one young.
Even though they are somewhat rare, California condors are identifiable by their completely black bodies, bald heads, and often yellow patches on their feathers.
10. Andean Condors
- Scientific name: Vultur gryphus
The Andean condors are unarguably the largest vultures found anywhere in the globe. They can reach weights of up to 30 pounds and can spread their wings to a length of about 11 feet.
The word “western” in their name gives away their primary habitat, which is the western coast of South America, more specifically, the Andes.
Llamas and alpacas make up the majority of their diet, although they will also consume smaller animals and their carcasses.
Even though it is uncommon, there is evidence that they engage in predatory behavior by taking the lives of birds and small mammals.
These different types of vultures forage in the region immediately adjacent to the coast and only venture further than a few kilometers off the coast.
11. King Vultures
- Scientific name: Sarcoramphus papa
The plumage of these big birds, which are native to South and Central America, is predominantly white, but their heads and necks are entirely hairless.
The color pattern on each bird’s head is unique, and it frequently incorporates a variety of hues, including yellow, blue, red, purple, and orange, among others.
With a wing span that may reach up to 7 feet, they are the New World vulture species that are the largest after the two species of condors.
It has the most powerful beak of any of the New World vultures, and as a result, it usually opens up carcasses first (hence the name).
12. Bearded Vultures
- Scientific name: Gypaetus barbatus
This bird is the species that can be considered the Egyptian vulture’s closest living relative.
It is common in sections of southern Europe, central and southwestern Asia, the Indian subcontinent, and pockets throughout Africa. Additionally, you can find it in some areas of the African continent.
Bearded vultures can grow to be exceptionally huge birds, with a wing span that can exceed 9 feet in length. They hunt their prey while flying at very high altitudes.
Carrion from other mammals makes up more than 90 percent of its diet, and most of what they consume is bone marrow rather than flesh in any form.
They are the only bird species known to specialize in bone marrow extraction, demonstrating that nature truly does find a way to use up every last bit of what is left over.
The species of vultures found in Turkey are capable of ripping through bones with their powerful beaks, but they can also break them by hurling them from tremendous heights.
13. Egyptian Vultures
- Scientific name: Neophron percnopterus
The Egyptian vulture, also often referred to as you can find the pharaoh’s chicken in many sections of southern Europe, northern Africa, some areas of southwestern Asia, and the Iberian Peninsula.
They are typically white in color. However, some of the feathers on their wings are black.
Because of their white plumage, these different types of vultures are prone to picking up dirt readily and, as a result, are frequently mistaken for brown, whereas in reality, the color is most likely just dirt.
In the wild in Egypt, these particular kinds of vultures are most frequently encountered in pairs or by themselves; huge flocks are quite uncommon. They work together to forage and procure food as well.
14. Cinereous Vultures
- Scientific name: Aegypius monachus
These birds, which have a wing span of ten feet and are also known as the black vulture, inhabit a very large range that stretches from South Korea all the way to India in southern Asia and from the Iberian Peninsula in the west.
You can find a secluded community in the southwestern region of Europe. The kinds of vultures in Europe are solitary birds; the only time they will gather in groups is when there is a dead animal to feed on.
They consume fish and reptiles in addition to mammals; however, they make up most of their diet.
15. Griffon Vultures
- Scientific name: Gyps fulvus
These different types of vultures have a distribution that is quite similar to that of cinereous vultures; however, griffon vultures do not venture any further east than India.
These vultures are common species in the areas where you can find them.
They will frequently gather there in large flocks to search for food, and they will also build breeding colonies on the cliffs. Griffon vultures have been known to survive for up to 40 years.
16. Red-headed Vultures
- Scientific name: Sarcogyps calvus
This kind of vulture is in danger of extinction and has an unmistakably red head. It is often referred to as the “Asian king vulture” because it can be seen on the Indian subcontinent most of the time.
Unfortunately, the population of the area is falling. This took place relatively recently due to the administration of diclofenac, a toxic chemical to vultures and used in veterinary medication.
At the time of the experiment, it was unknown whether or whether the substances caused any reaction in the vultures.
In India, certain species of vultures would consume the chemical by feeding on the carcasses of deceased animals treated with it.
17. White-rumped Vultures
- Scientific name: Gyps bengalensis
White-rumped vultures, in addition to their red-headed counterparts, are susceptible to the toxic effects of diclofenac.
As a direct result, their number in Asia has shrunk from millions of people (in the 1980s) to fewer than 6,000 people (now).
They have a pattern on the underside of their wings that is easily distinguishable, and their wing span can reach approximately 9 feet.
Adults are identifiable by the white line that can be seen on the underside of their black wings when they are in flight.
18. Indian Vultures
- Scientific name: Gyps indicus
Only in India can you find this particular species, and unfortunately, diclofenac poisoning is causing their population to decrease there.
Cliffs in western, central, and southern India are the most common breeding grounds for the remaining populations.
To obtain food, they frequently congregate into flocks and forage together for dead animals, preying primarily on mammals.
The necks and heads of Indian vultures are completely black, but the rest of their bodies, including their wings and backs, are primarily brown and grey.
These vultures, like white-rumped vultures, also have a white pattern on the underside of their wings, although it is much less noticeable than the pattern on white-rumped vultures.
19. White-backed Vultures
- Scientific name: Gyps africanus
The name of these vultures gives some clue as to their appearance: they have a white back and brown wings.
These different types of vultures have a white ruff around their necks, although youngsters are primarily dark in color; the white coloring doesn’t appear on their bodies until they reach adulthood.
Most of them reside in Africa, particularly in Senegal, the Gambia, Mali, Ethiopia, Somalia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia, and other areas of southern Africa.
The distribution of these vultures in Africa is the most extensive of other vultures.
However, contrary to what many believe, they are far from being prevalent in this range.
They are under the endangered species category due to the destruction of their natural habitat, frequently brought on by fires.
They have a very specific diet, consisting primarily of huge ungulates and ostriches, reflecting their high level of specialization.
White-backed Vultures are very gregarious birds that frequently hunt and feed together.
Frequently Asked Questions
With a wing span of approximately 3.5 meters, the Andean condor is the largest of all the species of vultures.
There are 23 different types of vultures, but they consist of the New World vulture species (found in the Americas and the Caribbean) and Old World vulture species.
Because of the actions of humans, more than half of the world’s 23 species of vultures are either Threatened, Endangered, or Critically Endangered. Vultures feed on carrion and other dead animals.
Many other kinds of birds, including vultures, can sing; however, New World vultures cannot do so. They are only allowed to make rudimentary sounds like grunts and hisses as a form of communication.
Urohydrosis is when an animal urinates on itself to cool down when temperatures reach excruciatingly high levels.
Vultures are essential members of any ecosystem because they clean up the remnants of deceased animals, thereby reducing the spread of illnesses. Vultures can thrive in almost any environment.
Unfortunately, the overuse of veterinary drugs and the degradation of natural habitats have put a significant number of species in jeopardy.
We hope you found this informative list of different types of vultures around the world interesting.