|Families and Genera|
Vultures, often seen as disgusting, filthy animals, are actually very important to ecosystems. These large, scavenging birds help clean up by eating rotting carcasses and other unclean things. They are known for their large wingspans and for feeding in groups. Vultures can soar on thermal columns for long periods of time, staying aloft without much effort. 
There are two distinct taxonomic groups of vulture known and New Old and Old World vultures. New World vultures, from the taxonomic family Cathartidae, are found in North and South America. They are unique from the Old World vultures, from family Accipitridae and subfamilies Gypaetinae and Aegypiinae, who inhabit Europe, Africa, and Asia.
Vultures are some of the largest flying birds. Most have bald heads to help them avoid the matting of feathers and dried blood from carcasses. The bald head also may play a part in thermoregulation.  Vultures have a large wingspan that allows them to soar on thermal air currents and stay in the air for hours searching for a meal. Most vultures have a large pouch in the throat called a crop, in which they can store food.
Old World vultures live in generally open areas and find food entirely by sight. They have powerful beaks and necks that are capable of ripping through skin, tendon, and sometimes even biting through bone. Old World vultures have strong feet that can grasp carcasses. However, they cannot walk on them very well; if another animal attempts to attack the Old World vulture while it is feeding, it must fly or hop away awkwardly. New World vultures are very different. They live in forested or hilly areas, and locate food largely through sense of smell. They have weaker beaks that must eat partially rotting and decayed flesh. The New World vulture, with its weaker, flat feet can walk away quickly from the predator, but cannot carry loads into the air. 
Old World vultures make their nests in open places, in tall trees, or on cliffs. They make large platforms from sticks sometimes in groups. Many lay only one egg at a time. New World vultures do not make nests, but lay their eggs in natural crevasses or caves. Most lay one or two eggs. The vulture's young mature much slower than many birds of prey.  Vultures, for this reason, take extra time to care for their young. Many Eastern cultures see vultures as motherly and loving creatures, instead of cowardly animals preying on the weak. 
Most vultures emerge from their eggs helpless. The parents must protect and provide for the babies, regurgitating food for them and scaring away predators. The vulture family will usually stay together until the baby or babies has matured.
Vultures are found on 5 of the 7 continents, Australia and Antarctica being the exclusions. They are classified on their location. Old World vultures are found in the East, Europe, Africa, and Asia, while New World vultures are found in the West, the Americas. They are not found on Australia and many islands in the South Pacific. Vultures are hardy birds that can survive long periods of time without food. This comes with a scavenging lifestyle. Old World vultures have a strong sense of sight, which allows them to spot prey often miles away in open areas. They often live in such areas as the African savanna or desert. New World vultures, equipped with an uncanny sense of smell, are better versed for finding food in areas where sight is limited, though most vultures live in open areas. New World vultures are found almost all across the American continents. 
Vultures' diet contains almost everything, including rotten flesh, garbage, and sometimes even the fecal matter of other animals. They rarely attack live animals, though there have been cases of condors carrying small calves. When feeding, vultures maintain a very strict social order. The larger, more dominant species are respected by the smaller ones and eat first. Afterwards, the smaller species are allowed to eat. 
Population decline in vultures has become a serious problem due to drugs in animal carcasses. The population of vultures in Pakistan and India has decreased over 90 percent in the past two decades, largely due to the drug diclofenac. This is an anti-inflammatory drug given to farm animals. Vultures are very sensitive to it and it can cause many health problems in them. 
This decline in the vulture population has caused serious hygiene and health problems in Pakistan and India. Carcasses are left for mammalian scavengers, such as rats and dogs, raising the chances of serious rabies outbreak.  So far the Indian government has banned the use of diclofenac. However, vulture populations may never rise back up to what they once were, if they even rise back up at all. There may just not be as much rotting flesh to sustain the numbers of previous populations.
- Campbell, Dana. Cathartidae - New World Vultures Encyclopedia of Life. Web. Accessed April 11, 2018.
- Aegypiinae Gypaetinae Wikipedia. Web. Accessed April 11, 2018. Author unknown.
- Kiff, Lloyd. Vulture Encyclopedia Britannica. Web. Last-modified April 25, 2017.
- Vulture Wikipedia. Web. Last-modified April 5, 2018. Author unknown.
- Vulture New World Encyclopedia. Web. Last-modified May 30, 2008. Author unknown.