Are New World vul­tures re­ally storks?

Bird Watching (UK) - - Meet The Family -

What’s the big­gest bird of prey in the world? An­dean Con­dor, right? Well, if you’ve had that ques­tion come up in a bird club quiz in re­cent years, it might have pro­voked a bit of ar­gu­ment about the re­sult. Some­body, I guar­an­tee, will have ar­gued that the five species of New World vul­ture (King, Black, Turkey, Lesser Yel­low-headed and Greater Yel­low-headed) and two species of Con­dor (An­dean and Cal­i­for­nia) are ac­tu­ally not re­lated to the Ac­cip­itri­formes, which in­cludes Old World Vul­tures, at all, but are in fact re­lated to storks and herons. For a time, that was ac­cepted as fact, but it was based on er­ro­neous data in an early DNA study. More re­cent stud­ies show that they’re closely re­lated to, but still dis­tinct from the Ac­cip­itri­formes. So, our hum­ble Grey Heron and Lit­tle Egret can’t claim su­per-sized rap­tors as their more il­lus­tri­ous rel­a­tives. They do, though, share an or­der (Pele­can­i­formes) with the ibises and spoon­bills (no sur­prise there), as well as the Shoe­bill and Hamerkop – two of Africa’s most bizarre-look­ing birds, it turns out, are each other’s clos­est rel­a­tives.

SHOE­BILL They’re among the world’s most in­stantly recog­nis­able birds AN­DEAN CON­DOR This huge rap­tor is found in South Amer­ica GREY HERON Most of us see them close to home, some­times even on gar­den ponds! HAMERKOP This African bird is re­lated to the Shoe­bill GRIFFON VUL­TURE Wide­spread in south­ern Europe, where it feeds on car­rion

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