Vultures represent 23 Species, split into two major families; New World and Old World Vultures. These two families are not closely related, but are similar because of convergent evolution due to occupying similar ecological niches.

New World Vultures – family Cathartidae

Black Vulture, Coragyps atratus
Also known as: American black vulture
Image by Larry Smith Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
Also known as: Turkey buzzard, Buzzard, John crow, Carrion crow
Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture, Cathartes burrovianus
Also known as: Savannah vulture
photo by Martha de Jong-Lantink Greater Yellow-headed Vulture, Cathartes melambrotus
Also known as: Forest vulture
California Condor, Gymnogyps californianus
Andean Condor, Vultur gryphus
Also known as: Great Condor, South American Condor
Image by Greg Goebel King Vulture, Sarcoramphus papa

Old World Vultures – family Accipitridae

Cinereous Vulture, Aegypius monachus
Also known as: Black vulture, Eurasian black vulture, Monk vulture
Griffon Vulture, Gyps fulvus
Also known as: Eurasian griffon vulture
Image by Goran Ekstrom White-rumped Vulture, Gyps bengalensis
Also known as: Oriental white-backed vulture
Image by Lip Kee Rüppell’s Vulture, Gyps rueppelli
Also known as: Rüppell’s griffon, Rueppell’s griffon, Rüppell’s griffin,
Rueppell’s vulture
Indian Vulture, Gyps indicus
Image by Bill Bacon Slender-billed Vulture, Gyps tenuirostris
Also known as: Long-billed vulture
Himalayan Vulture, Gyps himalayensis
Also known as: Himalayan griffon vulture
White-backed Vulture, Gyps africanus
Also known as: African white-backed vulture
Cape Vulture, Gyps coprotheres
Also known as: Cape Griffon, Kolbe’s vulture
Hooded Vulture, Necrosyrtes monachus
Red-headed Vulture, Sarcogyps calvus
Also known as: Pondicherry vulture, Asian king vulture,
Indian black vulture
Lappet-faced Vulture, Torgos tracheliotos
Also known as: Nubian Vulture
White-headed Vulture, Trigonoceps occipitalis
Bearded Vulture, Gypaetus barbatus
Also known as: Lammergeier, Lammergeyer, Ossifrage
Egyptian Vulture, Neophron percnopterus
Also known as: White scavenger vulture, Pharaoh’s chicken
Palm-nut Vulture, Gypohierax angolensis
Also known as: Vulturine fish eagle

Threats to Vultures

There are many reasons that vultures are increasingly endangered; worldwide they are hunted for meat or traditional ‘medicine’, are poisoned purposefully because they alert authorities to poached kills, die when eating poison-laced bait meant for other predators. They’re poisoned when eating lead used by hunters and shot because they are blamed for livestock deaths (most of the time, unfairly). They hit electrical lines or wind turbines, get hit by cars (often when trying to clean up roadkill), and they starve to death in spreading industrialized, urbanized areas where livestock is increasingly kept in confinement and wild prey has disappeared.  

Vultures suffer habitat loss because of human activity, and habitat degradation by chemicals such as DDT and other pesticides, which can result in fatally thin eggshells or build up over time to weaken adult birds. In India, the catastrophic downfall of vultures is thought to be caused chiefly by a single, widely used veterinary drug, a cattle painkiller called diclofenac. The combination of all these factors, and many others, account for the drastic reduction in global vulture populations. They should be seen as a dramatic call-to-action; we need to conserve these birds before they are lost forever.