Family New World Vultures (Cathartidae)

Least Concern

Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture (Cathartes burrovianus)


French: Urubu à tête jaune German: Kleiner Gelbkopfgeier Spanish: Aura sabanera

Cathartes burrovianus


, 1845,

near Veracruz City, Mexico


Formerly called C. urubitinga or C. urubutinga. Thought to be closely related to C. melambrotus; the two are widely sympatric. Two subspecies generally recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • C. b. burrovianus Cassin, 1845 – E & S Mexico (S Tamaulipas and Oaxaca) S to C Colombia and NW Venezuela.
  • C. b. urubutinga Pelzeln, 1861 – lowland South America from SE Colombia, S Venezuela and the Guianas S to NE Argentina and Uruguay.
  • Descriptive notes

    53–65 cm; male 950–1420 g (n = 2), female 960–1550 g (n = 5); wingspan 150–165 cm. Small cathartid with blackish plumage,... read more


    Generally silent. Like other Cathartes, lacks syrinx; at most emits a low, quiet hiss... read more


    Most records come from flat, open grasslands, llanos, savannas, swamps, mangroves and... read more

    Food and feeding

    Feeding ecology very similar to that of C. aura. Has good sense of smell, which it uses to locate food. Probably feeds on wide... read more


    Little information available. Adult seen with two recently fledged young in May in Colombia; in same country, female ready to lay in Aug.... read more


    No evidence to suggest any extensive movements, but abundance may vary seasonally in Panama and... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Global population estimates range from 100,000 individuals to 500,000–5,000,000 individuals. Status and distribution... read more

    Recommended citation

    Houston, D., Kirwan, G.M., Boesman, P. & Marks, J.S. (2020). Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture (Cathartes burrovianus). 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 21 February 2020).