Birds of Prey pp 457-471 | Cite as

Old World Vultures in a Changing Environment

  • Antoni MargalidaEmail author
  • Darcy Ogada


Carrion is a pulsed food resource of unpredictable occurrence in space and time that offers a high nutritive biomass, but is not globally widespread across all habitats and territories, and can be considered free because it does not require a large physical investment derived from predation (Ostfeld and Keesing 2000; DeVault et al. 2003; Selva and Fortuna 2007; Barton et al. 2013; Moleón et al. 2014a). As a result of these features, organisms feeding on this resource have developed morphological and behavioural adaptations to optimise its exploitation (Hertel 1994; DeVault et al. 2003; Moreno-Opo et al. 2015a, 2016), establishing guilds of species as in the case of carrion-eating birds (Selva and Fortuna 2007). Among terrestrial vertebrates, only vultures (families Accipitridae and Cathartidae) have evolved into obligate scavengers (DeVault et al. 2003; Beasley et al. 2015; Moleón et al. 2014b). Scavengers exploit carrion at different levels of intensity, and depending on their degree of carrion consumption and their own adaptive traits, they are defined as either obligate or facultative (DeVault et al. 2003; Wilson and Wolkovich 2011). As a result of the unpredictability in the availability of carcasses, the proportion of obligate scavenger species are scarce in comparison with facultative species that scavenge at variable rates but that can subsist on other food resources in the absence of carrion (DeVault et al. 2003; Beasley et al. 2015; Mateo-Tomás et al. 2015).



The authors acknowledge all people involved in different scientific and conservation projects related with vulture conservation that provided most of the data at which this chapter was based. D. O. acknowledges N. Richards for the assistance with references. A. M. was supported by a Ramón y Cajal research contract by the Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness (RYC-2012-11867).


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Animal Science (Division of Wildlife), Faculty of Life Sciences and EngineeringUniversity of LleidaLleidaSpain
  2. 2.Division of Conservation BiologyInstitute of Ecology and Evolution, University of BernBernSwitzerland
  3. 3.The Peregrine FundBoiseUSA
  4. 4.Ornithology SectionNational Museums of KenyaNairobiKenya

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