Jun 20, 2009

It's Good to be King Vulture

The King Vulture (Sarcoramphus papa) is a large New World vulture, whose habitat includes lowland forests from southern Mexico to northern Argentina. They are often the first on the scene of a fresh carcass, and so are the ones to make that initial cut into the deceased's hide. The early bird gets the intestines.

They are one of the most commonly featured birds in the Mayan codices, distinguishable by the caruncle on the beak (that orange knob) and by the concentric rings that were drawn around the eyes. I can't find any mention, however, as to whether the neck was depicted as a Big Stick popsicle, or if the caruncle was depicted as a rotting orange peel. Regardless, they were thought by ancient Mayans to be the messengers between the humans and the gods.

So, next time you see one at a zoo, see if it'll pass a message along for you. Maybe to Acat if you want a particularly killer tattoo, or to find out if the world-girlding serpent god Hapikern is of any relation to Corpse Tearer.

Photo by Mike Raiford


Vanessa said...


Pirrakas said...

It's really beautiful!