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Greater Yellow-headed Vulture
Cathartes melambrotus

Status: Lower risk

Population Trend: Declining.

Other Names: Forest Vulture, Yellow Headed Vulture.

Cathartes melambrotus
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Distribution: Neotropical. Southeastern COLOMBIA (Meta, Vaupés), southern VENEZUELA, and the GUIANAS south through Amazonian BRAZIL to eastern ECUADOR, eastern PERU, northern BOLIVIA, northern PARAGUAY, and northwestern ARGENTINA. more....

Subspecies: Monotypic.

Taxonomy: This species was not separated from the superficially similar C. burrovianus until 1964 by Alexander Wetmore. Amadon and Bull (1988) regarded the two forms as a superspecies, but they are widely sympatric, although occurring in different habitat types. The species name was misspelled as “melambrotos" by Meyer de Schauensee (1966, 1970).

Movements: Irruptive or local migrant (Bildstein 2006).

Habitat and Habits: Occurs in lowlands and up 2,000 m in Bolivia (Fjeldså and Krabbe 1990). Occurs in mature forest, unlike Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture and, for the most part, the Turkey Vulture, and is generally not sympatric with either species Flies with wings held horizontally, not in dihedral pattern like the other Cathartes species. Perches on exposed branches of high trees or snags at edge of forest, often in small groups. more....

Food and Feeding Behavior: Feeds solely on carrion, especially of forest mammals, including monkeys, sloths, and opossums, and also on dead fish (Robinson 1994). In Peru, it soars fairly low (<100 m) over the canopy and open areas, finding small carcasses inside the forest and along watercourses (Robinson 1994). Like the other Cathartes species, these vultures locate food items by olfactory and visual cues. more....

Breeding: Eggs are laid in a large natural tree cavity. Clutch size is 2 eggs.

Conservation: Common in undisturbed lowland tropical forests of the Amazonian region. Vulnerable to forest destruction and heavy hunting pressure, which could affect its food base. Schlee (2000) recommended that this species be placed on CITES II, but this conservative view does not coincide with that of Márquez Reyes et al. (2000) or other recent authors. Regarded as a species of "Least Concern" by BirdLife International (2007).

Important References: 
Ferguson-Lees, J., and D.A. Christie. 2001. Raptors of the world. Houghton
  Mifflin, Boston, MA.
Gómez, L.G., D.C. Houston, P. Cotton, and A. Tye. 1994. The role of
  Greater Yellow-headed Vultures Cathartes melambrotus as scavengers in
  Neotropical forest. Ibis 136:193-196.
Houston, D.C. 1994. Family Cathartidae (New World vultures). Pp. 24-41 in
  del Hoyo, J, A. Elliott, and J. Sargatal (eds.), Handbook of the birds of
  the world. Vol. 2. New World vultures to guineafowl. Lynx Edicions,
  Barcelona, Spain.
Houston, D.C. 1994. Observations on Greater Yellow-headed Vultures
  Cathartes melambrotus and other Cathartes species as scavengers in forest
  in Venezuela. Pp. 264-268 in B.-U. Meyburg and R.D. Chancellor (eds.),
  Raptor conservation today. World Working Group on Birds of Prey, Berlin.
Robinson, S.K. 1994. Habitat selection and foraging ecology of raptors in
  Amazonian Peru. Biotropica 26:443-458.
Schlee, M.A. 2000. The status of vultures in Latin America. Pp. 191-206 in
  R.D. Chancellor and B.-U. Meyburg (eds.), Raptors at risk. World Working
  Group on Birds of Prey, Berlin, and Hancock House, Blaine, WA.
Wetmore, A. 1964. A revision of the American vultures of the genus
  Cathartes Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections 146:1-48.

Last modified: 5/8/2014

Recommended Citation: Global Raptor Information Network. 2021. Species account: Greater Yellow-headed Vulture Cathartes melambrotus. Downloaded from http://www.globalraptors.org on 18 May. 2021

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