Described as Cathartes melambrotus Wetmore 1964; type locality Kartabo, Guiana.
Johnson et al. (2016) found the New World vultures to be a monophyletic clade, based on phylogenetic analysis of DNA sequence data (from both mitochondrial and nuclear genes), with the genus Cathartes sister to Black Vulture (Coragyps atratus). Within Cathartes a sister relationship between Greater Yellow-headed Vulture and Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture (Cathartes burrovianus) was moderately well supported, with Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura) sister to the two yellow-headed vultures.
Cathartidae traditionally was included in the order Accipitriformes, but now usually are recognized as a separate order, Cathartiformes, based on their very ancient divergence from Accipitriformes (Jarvis et al. 2014, Prum et al. 2015).