Vultures are scavengers, and mostly feed on carcasses of dead animals. Their gastric acid is extremely corrosive, allowing vultures to easily digest rotting carcasses infested with many potentially dangerous bacteria. The bald head for which vultures are known is another adaptation to their feeding behaviour, as feathers on the head would be destroyed when the birds enter their heads into fresh carcasses.
For many people, the necrophagous behaviour of vultures is not very attractive, but as consumer of dead animals, vultures prevent the spreading of diseases such as anthrax and rabies and thus fulfill a vital function in the ecosystem.
Vultures occur on all continents except Antarctica and Australia. There are two groups: ‘Old World’ and ‘New World’ vultures. The New World vultures are found in North- and South America and the Old World vultures in Africa, Asia and Europe. The groups are not closely related; the resemblances arose by convergent evolution.
A big difference between old and new world vultures is that old world vultures depend on sight to find food whereas many new world vultures have a very good sense of smell (which is unusual for birds) and can smell dead animals from a distance of up to two kilometers.
All European vulture species have a highly vulnerable status, and their distribution ranges have been severely restricted in the last century.Threats such as illegal poisoning, lack of food availability and collisions at wind farms and powerlines are putting the recovery of some populations at risk.
Working together with conservation partners, scientists, charities, governments and local groups we have helped create some significant species conservation action plans for vultures. These plans are tools for identifying and prioritising measures to restore the populations of vultures across their range. They provide information about the status, ecology, threats and current conservation measures for each species of vulture and list key actions that are required to improve their conservation status.
You can find some of the species action plans below
The Vulture Multi-species Action Plan
The Vulture Multi-species Action Plan (MsAP) provides a comprehensive, strategic conservation plan covering the geographic ranges (128 states) of all 15 species of migratory African-Eurasian vultures and promotes concerted, collaborative and coordinated international actions. The aim is to rapidly halt current population declines. This includes bringing the conservation status of each species back to a favourable level and providing conservation management guidelines applicable to all Range States.