Do you know that at present, there are 23 existing species of vultures in the world? They come in various sizes, and some of them are even larger than eagles.
But can vultures match the strength of an eagle? How much weight can a vulture carry? Unfortunately, vultures have weak legs and are not known to carry carcasses back to the nest.
They can only carry around 2 to 3 pounds during a flight. Below we will discuss more facts about vultures.
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Average Weight a Vulture Can Carry
Despite their large size, most vultures can only carry 2 to 3 pounds while flying due to their weak legs, feet, and blunt talons. This is why despite their large size, these scavengers couldn’t lift even half the average vulture’s weight.
For example, the king vultures typically tip the scales at 7.5 pounds. Meanwhile, the Eurasian griffon vulture weighs up to 24 pounds.
The Cinereous vulture is even large enough to dwarf an eagle with its average weight of 31 pounds. That said, American black vultures are rather small, weighing only around 2.6 to 4.1 pounds.
Due to their lack of strength, vultures feed mainly on dead animals and garbage. They typically feed on-site where the dead carcasses are located and therefore do not need to lift them to their nest. As such, most vulture species do not grab their prey during flight.
Depends on the Types of Vultures
How many pounds vultures can carry also depends on the type of vulture—or, more specifically, whether they’re New World or Old World vultures. Whereas the former has weak talons and mostly relies on their beaks, the latter boasts strong feet with excellent gripping power.
1. Turkey vulture (Cathartes aura)
Like most vultures, turkey vultures feed on carrion. These New World birds eat their prey on-site and are rarely seen carrying heavy animals during flight. So, what weight can a turkey vulture carry?
To answer your question, turkey vultures’ talons and legs are usually too weak to carry food. They mostly rely on their beaks to move prey and carcasses for a short distance. Even then, these vultures can only carry small mice or squirrels, which are around 0.5 to 1.5 pounds at most.
2. Bearded vulture (Gypaetus barbatus)
The bearded vulture belongs to the Old Word type and is currently listed as near threatened on the IUCN Red List. Unlike other vultures, this species feast mostly on bones rather than carrion.
Interestingly, the bearded vulture is notably stronger than most other species in the same family. It has no trouble flying while carrying bones as heavy as 8.8 pounds, which is more than half of its average body weight of 13.7 pounds.
3. Min and max weight
Compared to other birds of prey the carrying capacity of most species of vultures is at the lower end. Its average carrying capacity is only 0.5 to 1.5 pounds; even then, it can’t carry this load in its beak for long.
However, Old World species, such as bearded vultures, have feet strong enough to handle a heavier load. This puts the maximum weight a vulture can carry up to 8.8 pounds.
Factors Affecting the Carrying Capacity of Vultures
1. Legs and talons
Vultures are one of the largest and strongest birds, but not when it comes to lifting and gripping prey while in the air. Most of them have strong bills which they use to rip open the body of a dead animal.
Their legs are weak, which makes that a disadvantage for carrying heavy objects. The talons of their feet are blunt, which does not allow them to grip a considerable weight when flying.
Therefore, vultures, especially New World ones, rank low and are not even in the top 10 in a list of birds that can lift the most weight. That honor belongs to the harpy eagles, which can carry up to 40 pounds.
2. Wind conditions
Favorable wind conditions can help birds carry their prey. Vultures can carry small animals if the wind conditions are not against them.
To elaborate, the wind should be blowing in the same direction they are flying. With steady wind and good airspeed, vultures will have an easier time carrying a considerable weight easily.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can a vulture pick up a dog?
An adult dog of a small type of breed, on average, weighs around 5.4 to 10 kilograms or 12-22 lb. It’s too much for the vulture to lift since its maximum carrying capacity is only 2 to 3 pounds. Plus, they rarely attack healthy and live animals.
Do vultures attack humans?
Vultures are not known to attack humans. They only target dead animals and rarely attack live and healthy prey. That said, they can become defensive and violent toward humans when corned and threatened.
Unlike other birds of prey, vultures are not good weight lifters. Carrying does not serve them much purpose since they eat their prey on the ground. As scavengers, they eat dead prey rather than target live animals.
This article focused on answering the question: how much weight can a vulture carry? Now that you know the answer to this and other facts about vultures, share this article with others who might be interested in knowing more about this majestic bird of prey.
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