Family New World Vultures (Cathartidae)

Least Concern

King Vulture (Sarcoramphus papa)


French: Sarcoramphe roi German: Königsgeier Spanish: Zopilote rey

Vultur papa


, 1758,

“in India occidentali”; error = Suriname


Affinities unclear. In recent study, karyotype found to be similar to that of Coragyps#R. Monotypic.


Tropical forest and savanna regions of Middle and South America, from Mexico (S Veracruz and Guerrero) S to Peru, Bolivia and N Argentina.

Descriptive notes

71–81 cm; c. 3000–3750 g (sexes combined); wingspan 170–200 cm. Strikingly handsome bird. Plumage white, shading to buff on back and shoulders. All flight-... read more


Utters guttural grunts and whistling hisses in courtship, as well as low croaks and bill-snapping... read more


Lowland tropics, usually associated with undisturbed forest, but also found in open savanna and... read more

Food and feeding

A scavenger nearly exclusively, usually associating with C. aura or C. melambrotus, over both of which it is generally... read more


Only a few wild nests have been found, but species breeds well in captivity, from which information on courtship and breeding behaviour has... read more


Apparently resident in most areas throughout the year. Small numbers seen migrating in Bolivia and... read more

Status and conservation

Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Very few data available. Global population estimates range from 1000–10,000 individuals to fewer than 50,000 individuals.... read more

Recommended citation

Houston, D., Kirwan, G.M. & Marks, J.S. (2020). King Vulture (Sarcoramphus papa). 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).