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The king vulture (Sarcoramphus papa) is a large bird found in Central and South America. It is a member of the New World vulture family Cathartidae. This vulture lives predominantly in tropical lowland forests stretching from southern Mexico to northern Argentina. It is the only surviving member of the genus Sarcoramphus, although fossil members are known.
The king vulture is a scavenging bird of prey. Excluding the two species of condors, the king vulture is the largest of the New World vultures. It has, relative to its size, the largest skull and braincase, and strongest bill of the New World vultures.
The vulture's head and neck are featherless as an adaptation for hygiene, though there are black bristles on parts of the head; this lack of feathers prevents bacteria from the carrion it eats from ruining its feathers and exposes the skin to the sterilizing effects of the sun.=20
Info on vultures:
Vultures rarely attack healthy animals but may kill the wounded or sick. When a carcass has too thick a hide for its beak to open, it waits for a larger scavenger to eat first. Vultures are of great value as scavengers, especially in hot regions. Vulture stomach acid is exceptionally corrosive, allowing them to safely digest putrid carcasses infected with botulinum toxin, hog cholera bacteria, and anthrax bacteria that would be lethal to other scavengers. New World vultures often vomit when threatened or approached. Contrary to some accounts, they do not "projectile vomit" on their attacker as a deliberate defense, but it does lighten their stomach load to make take-off easier, and the vomited meal residue may distract a predator, allowing the bird to escape.
New World vultures also urinate straight down their legs; the uric acid kills bacteria accumulated from walking through carcasses, and also acts as evaporative cooling.
Vultures in south Asia, mainly in India and Nepal, have declined dramatically since the early 1990s. It has been found that this decline was caused by residues of the veterinary drug Diclofenac in animal carcasses. The government of India has taken very late cognizance of this fact and has banned the drug for animals. However, it may take decades for vultures to come back to their earlier population level, if they ever do: without vultures to pick corpses clean, rabies-carrying dogs have multiplied, feeding on the carrion, and age-old practices like the sky burials of the Parsees are coming to an end, permanently reducing the supply of corpses. The same problem is also seen in Nepal where government has taken some late steps to conserve remaining vultures.
A 2016 study reported that of the 22 vulture species, nine are critically endangered, three are endangered, four are near threatened, and six are least concern.
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