Family New World Vultures (Cathartidae)

Least Concern

Greater Yellow-headed Vulture (Cathartes melambrotus)


French: Grand Urubu German: Großer Gelbkopfgeier Spanish: Aura selvática

Cathartes melambrotus


, 1964,

Kartabo, Guyana


Thought to be closely related to C. burrovianus; the two are widely sympatric. Monotypic.


Poorly known. Amazonia, including S & E Venezuela and the Guianas, E Colombia, E Peru, NE Bolivia and perhaps S to N Argentina. Knowledge of distribution likely to be conservative#R.

Descriptive notes

64–76 cm; 1170–1650 g; wingspan 166–178 cm. Plumage black, with clear iridescence over back and coverts. Skin colour of head bright yellow, shading to... read more


Generally silent. Lacks syrinx like its congeners, and at most emits a low quiet hiss or grunt in... read more


Mostly favours undisturbed lowland tropical forest in South America, and usually does not... read more

Food and feeding

Scavenger on carcasses of forest mammals, such as monkeys, sloths and opossums. Locates food in similar manner to C. aura in... read more


Very few data available, no nest having been described in the literature. Copulation seen in Aug in French Guiana; reported to lay two eggs... read more


Generally thought to be sedentary, but occasional presence outside main range (e.g. W Bolivia and N... read more

Status and conservation

Not globally threatened (Least Concern). No global population estimate, and no firm data on population trends, although numbers suspected to be declining in some areas owing... read more

Recommended citation

Houston, D., Kirwan, G.M., Boesman, P. & Marks, J.S. (2020). Greater Yellow-headed Vulture (Cathartes melambrotus). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 24 February 2020).