King Vultures on Turrialba Volcano slope

It pays to look up carefully each time you see those circling kettles of Black Vultures overhead. I try to look through them carefully in the hope of seeing an accompanying hawk, but this time, at San Rafael de Santa Cruz at somewhere between 1200-1300 m elevation I was astonished to see the distinctive white and black wings of two huge King Vultures (Sarcoramphus papa). Most fortunately, I was accompanied by James and Laetitia Hart and James was able to document the sighting with some timely photos.

One King Vulture....

One King Vulture….


Two King Vultures!

Two King Vultures!

To those unfamiliar with the Turrialba area, this may seem no big deal, but actually sightings of this, the largest species of vulture in the country, are actually very few and far between around here. It is a fairly common species in the lowlands on both coasts but is considered a rarity in Turrialba. Space here now for a close-up of this species.

There are three other Costa Rican vulture species, but the Black Vulture (Corogyps atratus) is omnipresent here and is the species seen in greatest numbers. You can even find it walking about the streets of Turrialba town centre in the early morning.

Typical group of Black Vultures feeding, courtesy of Karel Straatman

Typical group of Black Vultures feeding, courtesy of Karel Straatman

The often low-flying Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura) is both a resident and a migrant here, with the resident race showing a pale-blue nape.

Turkey Vulture, courtesy of John Beer

Turkey Vulture, courtesy of John Beer

I show no image of the only other Costa Rican vulture species, the Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture because the only realistic chances of finding it are in the Caño Negro region in the northern Caribbean.

2 thoughts on “King Vultures on Turrialba Volcano slope

  1. Very cool! They don’t have vultures here in New Zealand but we do have a few types of hawks. I often see them over the vineyards. Another odd thing was seeing a sea gull eating roadkill the other day!? Who knew!!


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