King Vulture (Sarcorhamphus papa). Numerous figures of vultures appear in the codices and elsewhere. Indeed, they are among the most common of the birds depicted. Two species only seem to occur in the writings, the king vulture and the black vulture. The former is a large black and white bird with the head and the upper part of the neck unfeathered, except for numerous short, almost bristle-like plumules. These naked portions are often colored red and there is a large more or less squarish fleshy knob at the base of the upper ramus of the beak. This conspicuous protuberance has been seized upon as a characteristic in the conventionalized figures, and serves to identify the king from the black vulture. In addition, a series of concentric circles about the eye seems to be a rather constant mark of the king vulture, though they are also sometimes found in connection with figures which, from the absence of the rostral knob, must represent black vultures figs. 18, 27; , figs. 7, 10, 11). the knob is hardly apparent, and the same is true of fig. 13. Both these may represent king vultures. A remarkable figure is that shown in fig. 4, in which an ocellated turkey and a king vulture confront each other with necks intertwined. The short hair-like black feathers of the head are represented in this as well as in fig. 11, and in the glyph carved in stone (, fig. 10), which from the presence of the knob is probably a king vulture. The characteristic knob is shown in a variety of ways. Thus, in , fig. 1, it is greatly developed and resembles a large horn with a falcate tip. In fig. 4, it is sharply angular and nearly square. Frequently, it is a circle with a centered ring surmounted by one or two additional rings or terminated by a mitre-shaped structure figs. 2, 5-7, 8-12). A very simple form was found in the carving shown in fig. 13, where a long projecting knob is seen at the base of the culmen.
The king vulture seems to have a part to play as a mythological being, as it is pictured as a god with human body and bird head in the act of cohabiting with a woman in Dresden 19a, and with a dog in Dresden 13c (fig. 3). Moreover, the same vulture god is represented on a blue background and under a band of constellation signs in Dresden 38b, and is also to be noted in Dresden 8a. Förstemann (1906, p. 66) shows that the thirteenth day of the Maya month is reached in the tonalamatl reckoning at this place. This day is Cib, which corresponds to the Nahua day Cozcaquauhtli, which has the meaning vulture, and here, as previously noted, the vulture god is represented. In Tro-Cortesianus 22c fig. 2) and 10a,the king vulture appears alone, in the first instance with a blue background, and in the second with a background representing rain. Rain is also shown in connection with the vulture god in Dresden 38b, and the black vulture in Tro-Cortesianus 18b fig. 13).