Facts About the Fast Disappearing Vulture

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Vultures are large carnivorous birds that are found in most parts of the world. They are known for their large wings and sharp, curved beaks.

FACT 1: Vultures are found all over the world except in Antarctica, Australia and the surrounding islands.

FACT 2: The vultures found in the Americas differ from the vultures found in Asia, Africa and Europe. The Old World vultures are more like hawks and eagles. They source their food by eyesight alone. The New World vultures are slightly smaller. They rely on both sight and smell to find food. The two types of vultures are considered related by evolutionary statue rather than DNA.

FACT 3: All vultures are predominantly scavengers. They show a distinct preference for carrion. The acids in their stomachs deal with any potential threats from the bacteria present in rotting meat.

FACT 4: Vultures have a very sharp sense of smell. On open ground, they can spot a three foot carcass from four miles away. Once a vulture spots a carcass, it begins to circle overhead. This action attracts other vultures and more and more vultures join in the circling. This action is known as a kettle.

FACT 5: Vultures are solitary birds, but they get together when feeding. A group of vultures is called a venue.

FACT 6: Vultures play a vital role in nature’s disposal system. Human civilizations also depend on the vulture. Sky burials of the Parsee community and some Himalayan tribes depend on the vulture to dispose of the remains of the dead. Vultures also effectively clear up the remains of dead cattle, leaving a cleaned hide for the tanners.

FACT 7: In Asia the veterinary drug diclofenac was used to treat sick cattle. This drug is toxic to vultures who feed on the carcasses of these animals. The drug has been banned in India since 2006, but is still used illegally. Of the millions of vultures that used to soar majestically through Asian skies only a handful are left.

FACT 8: SAVE (Save Asia’s Vultures from Extinction) is a consortium of regional and international organizations. They work to completely eradicate the menace of diclofenac. In the mean time they maintain populations of captive vultures in India, Nepal and Pakistan. These birds will be released into the wild when it is safe.

FACT 9: In Africa too, vultures are on the brink of extinction. Vultures breed infrequently and mature slowly, their populations cannot be easily replenished. Africa has witnessed a 97% decline in vulture population due to urbanization, poisoning and witchcraft. Poachers of wildlife in Africa, poison vultures as circling vultures attract the authorities to unlawful kills. The vulture’s keen eyesight has fostered the myth that consuming vulture parts will grant one the gift of seeing into the future.

FACT 10: Buzzy, Flaps, Ziggy and Dizzy, the four vultures in the Walt Disney classic Jungle Book, have endeared the species to the young at heart. The vultures were supposed to have been voiced by John, George , Paul and Ringo of the Beatles. The lovable vultures bear a strong resemblance in voice and character to the four lovable Beatles.

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