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Cathartes burrovianus

Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture

  • Order: Accipitriformes
  • Family: Cathartidae
  • Polytypic 2 Subspecies

Authors: Eitniear, Jack

Cathartes burrovianus

Estación Tres Brazos, Reserva de la Biosfera Pantanos de Centla, Tabasco, Mexico; 5 October 2013 © Rolando Chávez Díaz Mirón

Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture closely resembles Greater Yellow-headed Vulture (Cathartes melambrotus), and overlaps with that species in northern South America. Both species are largely black with yellowish heads. Lesser occurs from eastern Mexico south through Central America, and patchily in South America east of the Andes and south to Uruguay. It is widespread in open areas, while Greater is confined to large areas of unbroken forest, primarily in the Amazon Basin. Lesser has less feathering on the neck, a shorter tail, and browner plumage tones than Greater. The feeding and breeding behavior of this species is likely similar both to that of Greater Yellow-headed Vulture and the widespread Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura), although Lesser may be less likely to soar high overhead than either of those species. It probably locates food largely by smell, as do the other species in the genus. A nest of Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture, in a hole in a tree, was reported from Suriname.

Recommended Citation

Eitniear, Jack. 2014. Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture (Cathartes burrovianus), Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; retrieved from Neotropical Birds Online:

This map is based on maps available from the NatureServe InfoNatura website, for the distribution in Central America and/or Caribbean, and on a map provided by Robert S. Ridgely, for the South American distribution.

The data for the InforNatura maps are provided by NatureServe in collaboration with Robert Ridgely, James Zook, The Nature Conservancy - Migratory Bird Program, Conservation International - CABS, World Wildlife Fund - US, and Environment Canada - WILDSPACE.

  • Migration/Movement:Intratropical Migrant
  • Primary Habitat:Low, seasonally wet grassland
  • Foraging Strata:Terrestrial
  • Foraging Behavior:Pull
  • Diet:Carrion
  • Sociality:Solitary
  • Mating System:---
  • Nest Form:No Nest
  • Clutch: 2 - 2
  • IUCN Status:Least Concern