King of the Roost
Wednesday 12 May 2004
London Zoo has this week seen the arrival of a pair of stunning king vultures. This pair has travelled all the way from Burgers Zoo, Arnhem to take part in the European studbook breeding programme
This magnificent bird is undisputedly 'The King of Vultures', being one of the largest and most strikingly coloured of the four species of vulture native to South America.
Because of their striking appearance king vultures have even been described as looking like 'Blackpool Landladies', with their bright 'made up' faces! The birds have a yellow fleshy wattle on the bill and the bare skin of the head is bright yellow and red. The overall body plumage is black and grey with a rose-yellow tinge. The extremely thick and strong bill is well adapted for tearing, and the long, thick claws for holding meat.
The King vulture is a bird of prey. In the wild, the king vulture feeds on carrion, which it is thought to locate with its exceptional sense of smell; unusual for birds who usually rely on their accurate eyesight to locate their next feed.
The Institute of Zoology (also part of ZSL) has been involved in extensive study of vultures in the wild.
The Kings are a New World vulture species to compliment the Gyps vultures that we also exhibit.
The male and female pair are well bonded and we hope to breed them as soon as possible to help maintain wild populations of this amazing species.
At times they will glide in wide circles for hours at a time sussing out their domain below. By making perfect use of the air currents, a vulture is able to soar for hours at a time, without once flapping its wings.
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