Breagyps clarki—Clark's Condor // Cathartes aura—Turkey Vulture // Coragyps—Black Vultures // Gymnogyps californianus—California Condor
The placement of the New World vultures has long been controversial (or at least, unclear). At times, the Cathartidae has been considered to belong to the Falconiformes and at times to the Ciconiiformes (storks). A recent study (Hackett et al. 2008) strongly indicates that the family is not closely related to the Ciconiiformes but does seem to be closely related to the Accipitridae. The Accipitridae, however, is separated from the Falconidae in their results. Pending further clarification, I am placing the Cathartidae as a family within the Accipitriformes.
The cathartids are (and presumably the extinct forms were) scavengers, feeding on the recently dead. The megafaunal extinctions of large mammals at the end of the Pleistocene apparently stressed members of the family, as indicated by extinction or contraction of geographic ranges of some.
Literature. Hackett et al. 2008.
Last Update: 2 Apr 2013