NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – When it comes to cute animals, a vulture may not come to mind. But the king vulture chick hatched on May 7th at the Nashville Zoo might be the exception.

“We have our king vulture here, only eleven days old,” explained Lauren Covington, Nashville Zoo Avian Keeper. “We pulled this little chick, we don’t know if it’s a boy or a girl yet, but he or she was pulled at four days from his parents or her parents. And we should know if it’s a boy or a girl any day now.”

King vultures are native to South America, and as a vulture, he’s fed what you might expect vultures to eat.

“Eating little mouse bits,” Covington said. “And because he’s eating on his own, he could overfeed himself. So, we just watch for that because he’s got a cute little crop there that bulges out. And as you can see, that’s part of the digestive system.”

As he grows, he will graduate to larger dead carcasses. And they are probably called “king” vultures for a reason.

“This guy is really strong already,” Covington pointed out. “So, a king vulture’s beak is one of the strongest beaks of all the vultures. So, although they don’t have one of the best sense of smell of all the vultures, they are one of the strongest.”

  • Nashville Zoo baby king vulture
  • Nashville Zoo baby king vulture
  • Nashville Zoo baby king vulture
  • Nashville Zoo baby king vulture

And in the wild in South America, the adults actually let other vultures do the work of finding dead carcasses, and they will fly down and take over. That definitely makes them “king.”

It’s hard to believe that this little guy or girl will get up to 3 and a half feet tall, weigh up to 10 pounds and have a wingspan of 5 feet.

And like everything else in nature, they serve a purpose.

“Just like over here, you see your turkey vultures, your black vultures eating dead carcasses along your roadsides, we need these guys because they’re your clean-up crew,” Covington explained. “So, you’ll find these guys doing the same thing, just down in South America.”

The plan is for this chick to become one of the zoo’s ambassador animals, meaning it could be in one of the shows, or out on the trail meeting and greeting everybody.

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