On the Vulture Chronicles: Finicky Feeders

Posted on in In the Field by Keith L. Bildstein, Ph.D., Sarkis Acopian Director of Conservation Science

don king
Dr. Lindy Thompson, releasing "Don King," a South African hooded vulture, after his capture in February.

12 December 2016

We typically characterize vultures as gluttonous creatures, obligate scavenging birds of prey that engage in rough and tumble feeding frenzies at large ungulate and pachyderm carcasses in the company of dozens of other "all consuming" vultures, scarfing up enough meat to last for several days. And indeed, vultures sometimes eat so much food that they remain grounded for an hour or more after feeding for partial digestion to take place, before they are light enough to take off. Having watched these birds feed for many years, I can tell you that all of this is true. But watching vultures at so-called "vulture restaurants," where humans routinely provide food, sheds light on an aspect of vulture feeding that goes largely unrecognized by the general public. 


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