They do simply go down and eat thier dead prey, but they have to find it first, either by sight or smell. if they smell something they may circle a while. They do simply go down and eat thier dead prey, but they have to find it first, either by sight or smell. if they smell something they may circle a while to try and pinpoint the location of the carcass before landing, they also need to look out for other predators and they may circle above a carcass waiting for a bear or a wolf to leave.
If they see alot of animal activity below they may circle for a while to see if someone will make a kill they can scavenge off of, or they may wait for an injured animal to die before landing to eat. Another reason is because they are so adapted to gliding rather than flapping thier wings it is very difficult and clumsy to take off from the ground, so they dont land until it is really necessary, safe and profitable.
There are so many reasons for this type of behaviour depending on the situation, trust me they have good reasons for flying around in circles it is what they are adapted to doing in order to survive. Thier wings, sense of smell and eyesight are all adapted to this circling behaviour which helps them find food and avoid danger in the wilderness.
Contrary to popular belief, vultures do not circle over dead or dying animals.
They soar on thermals of warm, rising air. This allows them to best conserve their energy in flight. After rising on the thermal, they glide as far as possible before they need to gain altitude again. You will certainly see vultures in the air over a carcass, but their descent is rapid.
They will not just hang out in the air looking at it. They want to eat it. In parts of Asia and Africa, vultures have become very brave and comfortable in the presence of humans. In these areas, they sit around rooftops, markets,and garbage dumps, and have much the same presence among the population as the gulls have among us. In such areas, they will follow carts full of food or garbage.