Species: King Vulture
Habitat: Rain forest of South and Central America
Status: Least Concern
DAK Locale: Flights of Wonder
The beautiful king vulture can be found in the lowland rain forest from Mexico to Argentina. Like all vultures, their head and necks are bald to avoid infestation when eating rotten meat. But these birds do make up for it with vibrant coloration. They also have a very pronounced fleshy piece on their beak called a caruncle.
The king vulture can soar for hours at a time, rarely beating their wings and conserving energy. Wing beats are deep and strong, and you can that at the Flights of Wonder show, as seen below. They are relatively unassuming at a kill and do not fight and bicker nearly as much as many other types of vultures. As you would have guessed, they eat mostly carrion but have been known to kill injured animals before feasting.
The king vulture is one of the most common animals seen in Mayan art and codices. It was thought to carry messages between the gods. Today, it is still quite common with as many as 100,000 birds living the wild. Although it is listed as of least concern, numbers are declining in large part due to deforestation.