Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture

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Common Name: Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture
Scientific Name: Cathartes burrovianus

Size: 21-26 inches (53-66 cm); Wingspan: 59-65 inches (150-165 cm)

Habitat: Central and South America; found from eastern Mexico south through Central America, and patchily in South America east of the Andes and south to Uruguay.

Prefers open areas with low, seasonally wet grassland.

Status: Least Concern. Global Population: Unknown amount of mature adults. The population trend appears to be stable, and hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion.

Diet: Wide variety of carrion. Usually last in the Vulture pecking order; it is dependent on larger vultures, such as the King Vulture, to open the hides of larger animal carcasses as its bill is not strong enough to do this.

Nesting: Its plumage is black with a green sheen. The throat and the sides of the head are featherless. The head and neck are bare of feathers, and the skin is yellow, with a reddish forehead and nape and a gray-blue crown. The irises of its eyes are red, its legs are white, and its beak is flesh-colored. The eye has a single incomplete row of eyelashes on the upper lid and two rows on the lower lid. The tail is rounded and relatively short for a vulture; the tip of the closed wing extends beyond the tail. Immature Lesser Yellow-headed Vultures have browner plumage, a dusky head, and a white nape.

Lesser Yellow-headed Vultures do not build nests, but rather lay eggs on the ground, cliff ledges, the floors of caves, or in the hollow of a tree. Eggs are cream colored and heavily blotched with brown and gray spots, particularly around the larger end. Two eggs are generally laid. The chicks are blind, naked and relatively immobile upon hatching. The chicks do not grow their down feathers until later. The parents feed their young by regurgitating pre-digested food into their beak, where the chicks then drink it. Young fledge after two to three months.

Cool Facts: The Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture closely resembles the Greater-Yellow-headed Vulture (Cathartes melambrotus), and overlaps with that species in northern South America. Both species are largely black with yellowish heads. The Lesser has less feathering on the neck, a shorter tail, and browner plumage tones than the Greater.

The Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture was first described in 1845 by John Cassin. It is sometimes recognized as having two subspecies. The first, Cathartes burrovianus urubitinga, described by Austrian ornithologist August von Pelzeln in 1851, is the larger of the two and is found from Argentina north to Colombia, while the nominate subspecies, Cathartes burrovianus burrovianus, is smaller and found from northwestern South America through Central America to Mexico. The Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture's genus, Cathartes, means "purifier" and is from the Latinized form of the Greek kathartēs or καθαρτης.

Found in Songbird Remix Vultures2

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