Bibliography on Cathartes aura, Turkey vulture, Guatemala

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Turkey vulture, Cathartes aura, especially in Guatemala

We at FLAAR (USA) and FLAAR Mesoamerica (Guatemala) have been studying all four species of vultures of Guatemala for many years. I can still remember all the black vultures in the trees over the main hotel in 1965, while a Harvard undergraduate student of architectural sciences, living 12 months in Parque Nacional Tikal while a student intern with the University of Pennsylvania Tikal (archaeology) Project.

Now that we are doing research on Neotropical flora and fauna at Parque Nacional Yaxha Nakum Naranjo (adjacent to Tikal park to the immediate west and the border of Peten and Belize to the west), we are making a list of all the vultures in the Yaxha park. So far the most common, as expected, is the Black Vulture (same one in adjacent Tikal park).

Much to my surprise, the King Vulture can be seen at Yaxha park, if you have a really experienced bird guide, such as Teco (Moises Daniel Perez Diaz).

We have had King Vultures circling over the hills in the distance two or three times during past months. Now we want to post a page on the third vulture present at Yaxha, the Turkey Vulture.

We have photographed Turkey Vulture in several areas of Guatemala

On February 1, 2018, two of us photographed turkey vultures in Manchon Guamuchal, parallel to the Pacific Ocean, south of Retalhuleu. On May 7, 2019, Maria Alejandra Gutierrez photographed turkey vulture along the Rio Ixtinto in the Parque Nacional Yaxha Nakum Naranjo. I am surprised since this is the same river where she photographed a black vulture on the early June field trip to the same river. The Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture (Cathartes burrovianus) is (so far) not found at Tikal or Yaxha or comparable areas. But I believe we have found this vulture in the Monterrico-Canal de Chiquimulilla area of coastal Guatemala (parallel to the Pacific Ocean).

Let’s start with the Turkey Vulture, #2 common in many parts of Guatemala (with Black Vulture being the most common in Peten). The King Vulture so rare that in 54+ years in Tabasco, Chiapas, Campeche, Quintana Roo, Yucatan, Belize, Izabal and Alta Verapaz, I never experienced a King Vulture until we had Teco as a birdwatching guide in the Yaxha park in 2018-2019. This does not mean all these areas lack the King Vulture, it means that since I am usually studying pyramids, palaces, temples, and ballcourts (or ants or flowers), that my eyes are looking down, not high into the sky. But when you are in a lancha crossing Lake Yaxha the entire sky is in front of you, so you can more easily see the King Vulture.


Bibliography, Suggested Reading:
PDFs, Articles, Books on Cathartes aura, Turkey vulture

As we continue to do our research on the vultures of Guatemala, here is a list of suggested articles and monographs on Cathartes aura, Turkey vulture. Obviously the vultures are pictured and mentioned in every book on Birds of Tikal, Birds of Guatemala, Birds of Mexico, Birds of Belize, etc.

  • ALVAREZ del Toro, M. A.
  • 1971
  • Las aves de Chiapas. Publ. Inst. Hist. Nat., Tuxtla Gutierrez, Chiapas, México.



  • BLAKE, E. R.
  • 1953
  • Birds of Mexico. University of Chicago Press. 644 pages.







  • MONROY, Octavio, CABRERA, Leonardo, SUÁREZ, Pedro, ZARCO, Martha, RODRÍUEZ, Clarita and Vicente URIOS
  • 2008
  • Uso tradicional de vertebrados silvestres en la Sierra Nanchititla, México. Interciencia. Vol. 33,
    No. 4. Pages 308-313.

    Available online:



  • RAMÍREZ, Jorge
  • 2006
  • Variación en la composición de comunidades de aves en la Reserva de la Biosfera Montes Azules y
    áreas adyacentes, Chiapas, México. Biota Neotropica. Vol. 6, No. 2. 19 pages.

    Available online:


  • SMITHE, F. B.
  • 1966
  • The birds of Tikal. Natural History Press. Garden City. 350 pages.





  • VILLAR, Luis
  • 2000
  • Guatemala: aves emblemáticas y simbólicas. Librerias Artemis Edinter. 147 pages.

Suggested web pages with photos and information on Cathartes aura, Turkey vulture
Information and photos.
Photos: Aves de la Selva Lacadona
Photos and map location.


First posted June, 2019.

Bibliography prepared by Marcella Sarti, FLAAR Mesoamerica; Introduction by Nicholas Hellmuth (FLAAR, USA).

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