Updated at: 06-06-2023 - By: Jane Brody

As a large scavenger, a vulture doesn’t exactly inspire hope. A vulture’s menacing appearance belies the fact that it is actually a quite benign bird. Dead or dying animals are the majority of its diet. It’s true

Vultures have the lowest assault probability of any raptor species.

Some remain perplexed, though,

Do Vultures Eat Humans?

Do Vultures Attack Humans (1)

That is, only the deceased.

Vultures, you see, are exceptionally astute birds.

After a body has been discovered, they will wait hours over it to make sure it is completely still.

A small number of vultures still fly down to make sure their victim is dead, however.

Only a few few animals regularly engage in live prey hunting.

To the contrary, they seek out and devour only the sick, injured, and dying.


There’s little chance a vulture would try to consume a healthy person.

In addition, humans are enormous prey with high intelligence.

Capturing a living human being is, however, much more challenging than capturing a dead one.

Aeschylus, an Athenian playwright, is the sole known victim of a vulture assault.

A lammergeier must have mistook a turtle for a stone and accidentally dumped it on Aeschylus’s bald head.

He was killed in a tragic accident.

Scholars of the past, however, speculate that the account was made up by a comic book author decades later.

No true “vulture attacking a live human” events have ever been documented.

Read my piece I wrote on the subject of vultures and their potential for harm, titled “Are Vultures Dangerous?”

With this inference comes the query:

Can Vultures Even Eat Live Humans?

Do Vultures Attack Humans (2)

Evidently, they are unable to.

A vulture’s beak is capable of doing serious harm to any human being.


Observing a human being is more interesting than attacking one, even to a bunch of vultures.

The exact cause is still a mystery.

Scientists have proposed several theories, though.

  1. Weak Feet

All raptors have powerful legs that they can use to stomp on their prey.

But vultures have flat feet and their talons aren’t very sharp.

As a result, they are limited to using their feet for locomotion (walking, hopping, etc.).

And so,

If a vulture does decide to go on a human hunt, it will be helpless to capture its prey.

  1. Motivation

A fresh kill is like a simple snack out in the wild.

This is why most animals resort to stealing food from fatigued predators rather than trying to catch their own meal.

In addition, there are only a few number of scavengers remaining.

It’s much harder to get your hands on a rotting carcass when there’s a fresh kill available.

Therefore, vultures are not required to actively pursue a living animal, let alone a human being.

  1. Size

Even after death, elephants are still fair game for vultures.

When it comes to actual hunting, though, vultures would rather chow down on a weak rat than an almost dead human.

One possible explanation is that vultures have been used by humans as a food source.

When faced with imminent death from malnutrition, some people may fake their own death.

Then, have it devoured by an eager vulture.

  1. Shyness

Perhaps vultures refrain from eating living creatures and people because they are timid.

Since that time, vultures have maintained a safe distance of ten feet or more from any other species.

In spite of this, vultures have an inexplicable preference for human communities.

That could be because there is always a supply of spoiled food scraps among the human population.

Alternatively, it could be for the purpose of scavenging human bones.

Do Vultures Carry Diseases?

At least, it’s possible that they do.

That’s because vultures feast on carrion, and decaying flesh is a breeding ground for germs and disease.

In any case

By feasting on the decaying flesh, vultures help control the spread of illness.

Vultures, therefore, provide a biological barrier to protect us from the spread of disease.

In addition, vultures’ bodies have evolved to defend themselves against any infections that may be lurking in the wild.

Most importantly, because of the following

  1. The digestive acids of vultures are notoriously acidic. Because of this, they are effective against a wide range of biological threats, including botulism, cholera, anthrax, and even rabies.
  2. The vulture’s tiny head and exposed neck are defining features. That’s why they can stick their faces right into a dead body without having to worry about any residues sticking to them.
  3. When vultures urinate on themselves, they are eliminating the bacteria that have accumulated on their legs from walking on dead bodies.
  4. The eyes of vultures have specialized membranes that allow them to withstand the effects of acidic gases.
  5. The immune system of a vulture is highly effective in fighting off diseases spread by the air.

Vultures spend a lot of time preening, though.


Birds of prey like vultures often take baths, especially after eating.

Vultures benefit from this because it helps them maintain a sanitary environment.


Diseases could be spread by vultures if they drank or bathed in contaminated water.

Nonetheless, without these raptors, the nutrients would become trapped in the heaps of dead carcasses.

Deadly diseases will also spread much more frequently.

For instance, within the previous two decades, there has been a 30% increase in rabies-carrying stray dogs in India due to the reduction of the vulture population.

Despite the fact that you care about people’s health, you may be hesitant to act.

Humans pose a much greater threat to vultures than they do to us.

The world’s 23 vulture species are all in perilous straits.

Therefore, a more appropriate inquiry would be

Do Humans Attack Vultures?

Do Vultures Attack Humans (3)

Indeed, they do, whether on purpose or by accident.

The fact that certain ancient cultures thought vultures were disgusting was enough to justify their extermination.

This practice persisted until the “Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918” banned the caging, hurting, or shooting of raptors by private persons.

Human-caused air pollution still led to the loss of calcium from vulture eggshells.

As a result, vulture populations have declined.

But all bird experts agree on one thing:

Pesticides and other veterinary medicines have caused the deaths of the vast majority of vultures.

Cattle are often treated with anti-inflammatory medications like diclofenac.

The vulture will likely perish after consuming the diclofenac-laced cadaver.

The same is true for the vultures, since hundreds have perished due to DDT pollution.

Animal poachers may deliberately inject such medications into a dead animal, killing any vultures that might otherwise be drawn to the carcass.

The ability to easily elude surveillance this manner is a major asset.

When it comes to elephants, this is the norm.

Near a tampered elephant carcass in 2015, about 450 vultures were discovered dead.

In addition to humans, vultures are also susceptible to lead poisoning and eventually die.

Vultures do this when they consume an animal that was shot with a lead bullet.

Thus, thousands of vultures have been indirectly killed due to hunting for fun.

Many vultures have also been killed by automobiles and electricity.

Another major factor in vulture extinction is the sale of vulture flesh in bush markets.


Despite the fact that various vulture-conservation initiatives are now underway.

Unfortunately, vulture numbers continue to fall.

To prevent the vultures’ deaths from occurring any longer, a concerted effort on the part of the people is required.

You might also be interested in this related article.

Wrapping Up 

Vultures may look dangerous, yet they have never been known to attack a human or even a little child.

But they do consume skeletons.

In a nutshell, this prevents the disease from spreading further.

Vultures have a habit of taking long, luxurious baths, which poses a risk to public health because it can contaminate water supplies.

Vultures are more likely to be killed by humans than by any other predator.

Continue reading if you’re curious about whether or not vultures consume dead bodies.

For that reason, I saved this for last because it’s somewhat gory.

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