Due to confusion with the smaller Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture (Cathartes burrovianus), Greater Yellow-headed Vulture was not described as a species until 1964; the two yellow-headed vultures differ in size, and in subtle differences in the coloration of the head and in the color pattern on the underside of the wing. Greater Yellow-headed Vulture is ecologically separated from the other members of the genus, occurring exclusively over large tracts of undisturbed lowland forest in Amazonia and the Guianas. With its highly developed sense of smell, it soars over forests in search of recently deceased forest mammals such as primates, sloths and opossums. In some areas where it occurs with and competes with Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura), Greater Yellow-headed Vulture is dominant. Perhaps due to its preference for undisturbed lowland rainforest and the general inaccessibility of this habitat, no nest site has been described for this species.