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Top 25 Birds that Scavenge

Scavenging birds play a vital role in our ecosystems, they clean up carcasses before they have time to rot. Without scavengers, rotting carcasses would become hubs for harmful pathogens. Vultures specialise in eating carrion and are highly efficient at cleaning up a carcass. But many other birds, like crows and eagles, will also scavenge if...

Scavenging birds play a vital role in our ecosystems, they clean up carcasses before they have time to rot. Without scavengers, rotting carcasses would become hubs for harmful pathogens. Vultures specialise in eating carrion and are highly efficient at cleaning up a carcass. But many other birds, like crows and eagles, will also scavenge if they get the opportunity. Scavengers, in particular the vultures, are facing immense challenges due to poisoning, habitat transformation and persecution. As a result 16 out of the 22 vulture species in the world are listed as ‘at risk’ on the IUCN RedList.

Here we present the Top 25 Birds that Scavenge. Thank you to everyone who contributed photographs to this week’s theme. Many of these birds are threatened with imminent extinction and your photographs bring awareness to these majestic birds. If you would like to take part in our weekly Top 25 Wild Bird Photographs of the Week, visit our Facebook page. Here you will find the week’s theme posted every Sunday, as well as instructions on how to take part. 

African Fish Eagles mainly hunt for fish but they will scavenge occasionally. In Uganda African Fish Eagles have been seen scavenging at leopard and lion kills (Preety Patel)
A pair of Egyptian Vultures and a crow clean up a carcass in Taiwara, India (Vani Khanna)
The face of the Hooded Vulture is usually white but when they become agitated it flushes red (Ramesh Aithal)
Crested Caracaras have been known to chase vultures in flight until the vulture regurgitates their food, the Caracara then catches the meat! (Melissa Penta)
An adult Bald Eagle about to steal a fish from a juvenile. These eagles are excellent hunters but will scavenge on carrion, especially during winter (Kelly Hunt)
The Turkey Vulture has a very good sense of smell and will use this to locate carrion (Kishore Liju)
Tawny Eagles have a broad diet which includes carrion (Sandipan Ghosh)
A Steppe Eagle and Egyptian Vulture feed on a carcass in Bikaner, India (Sandipan Ghosh)
Eastern Imperial Eagles are more reliant on carrion during winter, than summer (Suranjan Mukherjee)
A Black Kite pursues an Egyptian Vulture with the intention of stealing its meal! (Gur Simrat Singh)
A Griffon Vulture photographed in snowy Bulgaria by Marios Mantzourogiannis
Himalayan Vultures will usually feed at carcasses in small groups of around 5 (Gurpartap Singh)
the body parts of Ruppell’s Vultures are regularly traded in central and west African markets (Marios Mantzourogiannis)
Overall, the population of Griffon Vultures seems to be increasing, an encouraging trend given that the majority of the world’s vulture populations are declining (Antonis Tsaknakis)
A Himalayan Vulture mid meal in Rohtang Pass, India (Prakash Chimad)
A magnificent portrait of Africa’s largest vulture, the Lappet-faced Vulture (Marios Mantzourogiannis)
There is a distinct pecking order at carcasses, the larger Lappet-faced Vulture tends to dominate other scavenging birds (Wasif Yaqeen)
Marabou Storks eat mainly carrion, their bills are not well designed for tearing open carcasses so they wait for the predator or other scavengers, like these Spotted Hyenas to open the carcass (Bhargavi Upadhya)
Lesser Yellow-headed Vultures are found in central and south America (Adriana Dinu)
A Lappet-faced Vulture comes in to land in the Maasai Mara, Kenya (Subramanniyan Mani)
A stunning shot of a Steppe Eagle in flight (Gur Simrat Singh)
this Ruppell’s Vulture will wait for the hyenas to finish feeding before approaching the carcass (Bhargavi Upadhya)
A Marabou Stork feeds on carrion on the plains of the Maasai Mara, Kenya (Kishore Reddy)
A Marabou Stork waits for the White-backed Vultures to tear open a cattle carcass on the Serengeti (Teri Franzen)
A pair of White-backed Vultures at a wildebeest carcass in Kenya (Suranjan Mukherjee)

Our mission is to build a global community around the freedom and beauty of birds in the wild as ambassadors for the natural ecosystems that they depend upon. They are the music, decoration, and character of every terrestrial habitat on the planet and have been around since the dinosaurs. They are the witnesses and ambassadors of the awesome power of nature. The wide availability of good, cheap optics has opened their world to us for the last few decades. Amazing, affordable DSLR cameras with long lenses are delivering brilliant digital bird imagery to online communities.

We are in a day-and-age during which more bird species are threatened with extinction than ever before. The Wild Birds! Revolution aims to publish the “Top 25 Wild Bird Photographs of the Week” to 1 million people every week by the end of the year. That is a revolution that will change the world! Join thousands of other weekend naturalists, photographers, birders, experts, hikers, nature-lovers, guides, scientists, conservationists and artists that share the thousands of wild bird photographs submitted to the Wild Bird Trust website and Facebook page. Thousands of wild bird enthusiasts are going out every day to photograph our planet’s beautiful birdlife. Pick up your camera, fill your bird feeder, open your heart, and join the Wild Birds! Revolution!!

Edited by Christie Craig, Campaign Manager

Top 25 Birds with Red Plumage

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Meet the Author

Steve Boyes
Steve Boyes has dedicated his life to conserving Africa's wilderness areas and the species that depend upon them. After having worked as a camp manager and wilderness guide in the Okavango Delta and doing his PhD field work on the little-known Meyer's Parrot, Steve took up a position as a Centre of Excellence Postdoctoral Fellow at the Percy FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology. He has since been appointed the Scientific Director of the Wild Bird Trust and is a 2014 TED Fellow. His work takes him all over Africa, but his day-to-day activities are committed to South Africa's endemic and Critically Endangered Cape Parrot (Poicephalus robustus). Based in Hogsback Village in the Eastern Cape (South Africa), Steve runs the Cape Parrot Project, which aims to stimulate positive change for the species through high-quality research and community-based conservation action. When not in Hogsback, Steve can be found in the Okavango Delta where he explores remote areas of this wetland wilderness on "mokoros" or dug-out canoes to study endangered bird species in areas that are otherwise inaccessible. Steve is a 2013 National Geographic Emerging Explorer for his work in the Okavango Delta and on the Cape Parrot Project.