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Summary Article: vulture from The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

Any of various carrion-eating birds of prey in the order Falconiformes, with naked heads and necks, strong hooked bills, and keen senses of sight and smell. Vultures are up to 1 m/3.3 ft long, with wingspans of up to 3.7 m/12 ft. The plumage is usually dark, and the head brightly coloured.

The vulture's eyes are adapted to give an overall view with a magnifying area in the centre, enabling it to locate possible food sources and see the exact site in detail.

True vultures Old World vultures are placed in the family Accipitridae along with hawks and eagles. They are large birds with a wingspan of 1.5–3.7 m/8.7–12 ft, mostly with black or brown plumage. Most of them are devoid of feathers on their heads and necks. All but one feed on carrion, the exception being the palm-nut vultureGypohierax angolensis, which feeds mainly on the fruit of the oil palm, as well as fish and offal on the shore.

Other examples are the Egyptian vulture, Neophron percnopterus, found throughout Europe, Asia, and Africa, the black vultureAegypius monarchus, and the lappet-faced vultureTorgos tracheliotus.

New World vultures American vultures are placed in a family of their own, Cathartidae. They are very similar to the Old World vultures, but are anatomically distinct. They include the king vultureSarcoramphus papa, turkey vultures, and condors.

The Cape griffon vultureGyps coprotheres, Africa's second-largest vulture after the lappet-faced vulture, had only 4,400 breeding pairs in 1993. Its infant mortality is 84%, so it takes each adult bird about 20 years to replace itself.

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