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Vultures of Manu National Park


November 11, 2017

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The Tambo Blanquillo Private Reserve located inside the buffer zone of Manu National Park, is blessed with over 1000 recorded bird species. In order for all these species to survive together, they need to specialize on different ways of making a living. Some of these birds are diurnal, some nocturnal, some eat insects, other eat other birds and mammals, and some -like the Vultures- prey on dead animals.

Today we are going to describe the three most common species of Vultures that are seen around our Lodge, so you can identify them easily, and be ready for your next adventure in the Amazon.

Black Vulture 

Black Vulture – Illustration: All about Birds (www.allaboutbirds.org)

Black Vulture – Illustration: All about Birds (www.allaboutbirds.org)

The Black Vulture is the most common and widespread of the Vulture species in Peru. They are extremely abundant near human settlements, and are even considered pests in cities like Puerto Maldonado, Chiclayo, or Lima. In Manu, however, they feed on natural sources and not human garbage. It is easy to identify them due to their black head -they are the only species that has one- and the white tips of their primaries (the tips of their wings). Expect to see several of them flying high as you cruise through the Madre de Dios River.

Greater Yellow-headed Vulture

Greater Yellow-headed Vulture – Photo: Tambo Blanquillo Team

Greater Yellow-headed Vulture – Photo: Tambo Blanquillo Team

The Greater Yellow-headed Vulture is extremely similar in size and shape to the Black Vulture. However, as the name implies, this species has a Yellow head. It also inhabits these tropical forests in lower densities than the Black Vulture does. And easy way to separate the two species at a distance is to see the wings. While Black Vultures only have White on the wingtips, Greater Yellow-headed Vultures have white on half of the wing, but not the wing tip. Expect to see them eating carrion on the beaches of the Madre de Dios River, or circling high up on Oxbow Lakes.

King Vulture

King Vulture preying on a dead Anaconda – Photo: Aidan G. Kelly

King Vulture preying on a dead Anaconda – Photo: Aidan G. Kelly

This species is called King Vulture for a reason. It is not only the biggest, strongest, arguably the most beautiful vulture in the World, it is also in charge. And we mean this quite literally. King Vultures are the only Vulture species strong enough to break through the leather of some of biggest megafauna, like Caimans, Tapirs, or Anacondas. When, for a example, a big caiman dies and washes up to shore, even though Black and Greater Yellow-headed Vultures will arrive first, they need to wait for the King Vulture to show up and open the Menu for them. It is however, also the rarest of all the species here. Expect to see no more than 2 on a few days of travelling, unless you are lucky enough to encounter with a fresh animal corpse. This species is also unmistakable. While all other vultures in this area are relative small and black, the King Vulture is enormous and mostly white, with a palette of different colors showing on its head and neck.

If you happen to have any questions about this blog post or any subject, please do not hesitate to contact us.

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