King Vulture

Besides having a stinky nest, the king vulture practices urohydrosis—it defecates on its legs to lower its body temperature. Besides these more gross facts, the king vulture is a fascinating bird. It is moderately intelligent, being able to figure out puzzles and can be trained. Our male king vulture, Sid, is trained to step on a scale to be weighed.

King Vulture

Sarcorhamphus papa

Habitat: Central and South America

Diet in the wild: Scavenger-eats carrion

Diet at Caldwell Zoo: Turkey necks, rats, bird of prey diet

Size: 30 inches; 8 pounds

Family: Monogamous; mates for life

Status: Least concern, but population decreasing

Did you know? The king vulture makes a nest in a hollow tree. That nest smells really bad to help keep predators away.


Sid is our lone King Vulture in our South American habitat at the zoo. He is known to follow keepers around when they are cleaning and will pester the monkeys when he gets a chance. Sid will even take a stick from keepers and play with it similar to a dog. He loves to chew on deer bones, but his favorite food is hard boiled eggs. At times he can be seen courting both keepers and visitors by spreading his wings and lowering his head.

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