VULTURE, the name of certain birds whose best-known characteristic is that of feeding upon carcases. The genus Vultur, as instituted by Linnaeus, is now restricted by ornithologists to a single species, V. monachus. The other species included therein by him, or thereto referred by succeeding systematists, being elsewhere relegated (see LAMMERGEYER). A most important taxonomic change was introduced by T. H. Huxley (Proc. Zool. Society, 1867, pp. 462-64), who pointed out the complete structural difference between the vultures of the New World and those of the Old, regarding the former as constituting a distinct family, Cathartidae (which, however, would be more properly named Sarcorhamphidae), while he united the latter with the ordinary diurnal birds of prey as Gypaetidae.
The American vulture may be said to include four genera: (i) Sarcorhamphus, the gigantic condor, the male distinguished by a large fleshy comb and wattle; (2) Gypagus, the kingvulture, with its gaudily "coloured head and nasal caruncle; King-Vulture (Gypagus papa).
(3) Catharista, containing the so-called turkey-buzzard with its allies; and (4) Pseudogryphus, the great Calif ornian vulture of very limited range on the western slopes of North America. Though all these birds are structurally different from the true vultures of the Old World, in habits the Vulturidae and Sarcorhamphidae are much alike.
The true vultures of the Old World, Vulturidae in the restricted sense, are generally divided into five or six genera, of which Neophron has been separated as forming a distinct subfamily, Neophroninae its members, of comparatively small size, differing both in structure and habit considerably from the rest. One of them is the so-called Egyptian vulture or Pharaoh's hen, N. percnoplerus, a remarkably foul-feeding species, living much on ordure. It is a well-known species in some parts of India, 1 and thence westward to Africa, where 1 In the eastern part of the Indian peninsula it is replaced by a smaller race or (according to some authorities) species, N. gingtniamts, which has a yellow instead of a black bill.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)