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two groups of large predatory birds, treated together because of their similar ways of life and structural features. Most vultures feed on carrion and refuse (only the palm vulture feeds on fruit). Seeking their prey, vultures hover in the air for hours (with the aid of broad, long wings), sometimes from a very high altitude. They use their powerful beaks to tear the bodies of animals and remove the entrails, but they do not become smeared by the blood since their heads and necks are bare or covered with short down. Some vultures help in sanitation by disposing of refuse. Vultures nest on cliffs, in ravines, in trees, or on buildings. They carry food in their craws for their young and for nesting females.
Vultures are classified as American Vultures (family Cathartidae) and true, or Old World, vultures (some of the species of family Accipitridae). There are 14 species of true vultures, divided into nine (or ten) genera and distributed over Africa, southern Europe, and Central and South Asia. Five species (from four genera) live in the USSR: the black vulture found in the mountains of the Crimea, the Caucasus, Middle Asia, and southern Siberia; two species of griffon vultures, the carrion vulture; and the bearded vulture, or lammergeier.