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How Much Weight Can a Vulture Carry? The Interesting Answer!

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Vultures are raptors and are considered birds of prey, even though they don’t really prey on any animals. They typically live on carrion, meaning the bodies of already dead animals, and while they prefer fresh meat, they can consume meat that has been standing for some time.

In fact, they can eat meat that would be toxic to other animals. These creatures are best recognized for their bald heads and necks and their giant form. They are social animals and will often eat in flocks, but because they have weak feet and legs, they do not carry prey away.

At most, a vulture may be able to carry two or three pounds while flying. This means that even some small hawks have a similar carrying capacity to vultures, and most eagles are capable of carrying heavier weights.

Read on for more information on how much weight a vulture can carry and how it compares to other species of bird.

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About Vultures

Vultures are considered birds of prey, although they don’t hunt live animals. Instead, vultures eat carrion or dead animals. They are considered opportunistic, although stories of them circling dying animals and waiting for them to die are untrue.

Vultures can, however, smell dead animals from up to a mile away. They also have exceptional eyesight which enables them to identify the source of a smell. While they prefer fresh meat, vultures can eat meat that has been left for a long time and would prove toxic to other animals. Not only does this give them a source of food that other predators and even scavengers will leave, but it also makes them a beneficial chain in the ecological system.

vulture bird on a tree trunk
Image Credit By: scholty1970, Pixabay

How Much Weight Can a Vulture Carry?

Vultures are not equipped to carry animals. They have weak legs and feet, which means they have no means of carrying weight while flying. This means that, despite weighing up to 25 pounds, vultures can only really carry up to about 2 pounds in weight.

How It Compares to Other Birds

The vulture’s inability to carry heavy weights means that its carrying capacity compares to some small hawks and is less than large hawks and eagles. Its carrying capacity to body weight is much lower than a lot of other species. 

Species Carrying Capacity
Harpy eagle 30 pounds
Bald eagle 10 pounds
Red-tailed hawk 3 pounds
Vulture 2 pounds

eagle, hawk, and vulture weight capacity

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Do Vultures Hunt Live Animals?

Although vultures typically eat carrion, they can and sometimes do kill and eat live animals. They usually only prey on dying or sick animals, however, and even when they do hunt live animals, they are unable to pick them up and carry them off. They will kill the animal and eat it on the ground.

Are Vultures a Threat to Humans?

Vultures are not considered a threat to humans in any way. They would consider a person too large to attack, and most vultures feed predominantly on dead animals rather than live ones.

turkey vulture bird
Image Credit By: David Osborn, Shutterstock

Can Vultures Carry Dogs and Cats?

Vultures can only carry around 2 pounds in weight, which means that they would be unable to pick up adult dogs and cats and would struggle with all but the smallest puppies and kittens. In any case, vultures prefer to eat carrion, and they typically eat on the ground in flocks, so have no need to carry small animals off.


Vultures are raptors and are considered birds of prey, although they rarely hunt animals for food, instead preferring to eat dead animals. They have weak legs and feet so despite being heavy birds, they can typically only carry two or three pounds in weight.

Eagles and most hawks can carry heavier weights than vultures, although these bald birds serve an invaluable purpose because they can eat meat that has rotted and would be toxic to other animals that might try and eat it.

Featured Image Credit By: Shutterstock, PACO COMO

About the Author Robert Sparks

Robert’s obsession with all things optical started early in life, when his optician father would bring home prototypes for Robert to play with. Nowadays, Robert is dedicated to helping others find the right optics for their needs. His hobbies include astronomy, astrophysics, and model building. Originally from Newark, NJ, he resides in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where the nighttime skies are filled with glittering stars.