What Do Vultures Eat?

Do you wonder what vultures really eat? Are you afraid of your pet or livestock? The diet of these birds can vary from species to species. King, Egyptian and white-backed vultures are very similar in what they eat but bearded or palm nut vultures are very different. In this article, you get a complete list of the scavengers menu.

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Do Vultures Eat Live Animals?

Most vulture species are not interested in eating any living animal. In contrast to other birds, vultures have a very strong sense of smell. With that, they are able to find dead bodies over long distances. Even if the animal died only a short time ago, vultures can find their meal easily.

Most people think, that vultures love to dine on rotten flesh but nothing could be more wrong. If vultures have a choice, they prefer fresh cadavers. However, their stomach acid is still very strong so that it kills most bacteria and viruses if the carrion is somewhat older.

One species even likes it very old: the lammergeier or bearded vulture actually prefers to eat bones. Up to 90 percent of its died could be from skeletons. This is very unusual in the animal kingdom and the bird has developed a specific technique to break larger bones into smaller digestible pieces.

Therefore the bearded vulture takes large bones and flies over rocks at a high altitude. He then throws the bone onto the stone to break it into many small fragments which he can eat.

So, even if most vultures don’t eat living things, there is one exception. The black vulture tends to eat weak or near to death animals. This becomes a problem for livestock farmers nowadays as the natural habitat of the bird expends into the northern states.

Why Do Vultures Eat Dead Animals?

vulture eating cardaver

Vultures fill a very specific niche with their eating habits and it’s a big advantage for the bird to solely rely on carrions.

For example, there are no animals that compete with the bearded vulture for skeletons and bones.

Other species like the turkey vulture don’t have it that easy as hyenas and other predators might be interested in their meal too. But they are able to feed on meat, which is rotten so much, that it would be poisonous to every other being.

Another important aspect is, that vultures play an important role in ecological balance. So to say, they are the garbage collection of nature and prevent the spread of diseases from rotting dead bodies.

What Do Baby Vultures Eat?

Baby vultures need a lot of food on regular basis. Like other nestlings, they grow very fast and parents have a lot of work in making them full.

The food they eat doesn’t differentiate from the one adults like to eat. Flesh provides them with proteins and energy they need for growth while some bones carry the calcium.

However, the small birds can only digest it when the parents regurgitate the food. 14 days after hatching they can eat solid food for the first time.

What Do Vultures Eat In The Savannah?

Even if there are fewer species in the deserts than in the rainforests, life still happens in the driest regions of the earth. The eating habits of vultures are perfectly accustomed to these climate zones as they purely rely on dead leftovers.

For example, no predator eats the bones of its prey. For bearded vultures, these are a delicacy. Like I said before, rotten meat that no other animal could eat is no problem for the scavengers.

Depending on the continent we talk about vultures in deserts eat carrions of the following animals:

  • Cheetahs
  • Coyotes
  • Elephants
  • Gazelles
  • Giraffes
  • Hyenas
  • Leopards
  • Lions
  • Meercats
  • Rhinos
  • Scorpions
  • Snakes
  • Warthogs
  • Zebras

What Do Vultures Eat In Captivity?

As I explained in this article about pet vultures, these birds are protected by law. So only a few people are keeping them illegal as pets.

However, zoos and animal parks have special permits and licenses and are allowed to own vultures. Additionally, there are rescue shelters and rehabilitators that are caring for injured or orphaned birds.

These institutions, of course, have to feed the scavengers and they don’t serve rotten meat and cadavers. Instead, they give fresh meat (mostly chicken and mice).

How Much Do Vultures Eat?

Baby vultures need to be fed appr. 20 times a day by their parents. Of course, adult birds eat much less often. But when they do, they won’t stop until they are completely full.

In the wild, they never know, when the next meal is available.

How Do Vultures Eat?

Vultures eat from carcasses by sticking their head into the dead body. This is also why their head is bald. Imagine how easy it is to clean dirty skin up compared to blood and liquids that stick to feathers.

The former can be done with a single swipe or a short bath while the latter needs tremendous effort.

What Do Vultures Eat First?

When starting to feed on a newly discovered cadaver, vultures always start with the soft parts of the body.

First, these are parts of the face like lips, eyes and nose. But to gain access to the whole corpus the after is often the most practical choice. It sounds disgusting, but for an animal that can deal with nearly every bacteria and virus, it might be obvious.

Do Vultures Eat Anything?

vultures eating turtle

Yes and no. While one can first think that there is nothing that this bird would reject to eat, the right answer is always it depends. The question is, about which vulture species we talk about.

While most don’t take a look at living beings, that might be different with black vultures. However, there are even some species like the palm nut vulture that almost solely feed on fruits.

Despite they are carnivores, every species eats fruits, plants, insects and invertebrates occasionally.

The diet’s main parts hugely depend on the region and climate zone the animal lives in. Vultures can be found in nearly every part of the world except Antarctica and Australia.

On the menu are cadavers of the following animals and many more. Of course, sometimes maggots and worms which already settle in the corpse get eaten too.

  • Cats and kittens
  • Chickens
  • Crows
  • Deer
  • Dogs
  • Eagles
  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Foxes
  • Frogs
  • Hawks
  • Hummingbirds
  • Jaguars
  • Mice
  • Owls
  • Pigeons
  • Raccoons
  • Shrews
  • Skunks
  • Squirrels
  • Turtles
  • Wildbeest
  • Wolves

Why Do Vultures Eat Rubber?

Especially in Florida, people can observe vultures that are attracted by the rubber of their cars. Wheels and other parts of cars absorb the juice from insects and other organic material like roadkill the car might comes in contact with.

Vultures smell these remains and try to pick them from the rubber.

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