Vultures use social cues from other birds to find food, according to new research by scientists at Trinity College Dublin.

The researchers say the study's findings will help in the conservation of the endangered species.

While it was known that vultures use each other to help find food, the research found they also rely on cues from other birds of prey, namely scavenging Tawny and Steppe Eagles.

This is because the other birds have better eyesight and sharper beaks, meaning they are able to locate dead meat from the sky and eat it on the ground more easily.

The zoologists from the School of Natural Sciences at TCD used a mix of economic game-theory models and data they gathered while studying two species of vulture native to Kenya.

The game theory was necessary to understand the evolution of cooperation and cheating among birds with competing interests.

The researchers found that not only do the vultures follow the other birds to the carcasses, but they wait for them to tear them open to make it easier for them to access the meat, before driving the other birds away.

The team says the findings highlight the importance of integrated management strategies for conserving vulture populations.

Vultures are important in many ecosystems, where they get rid of dead animals and reduce the risk of exposure to dangerous diseases that are infectious for humans.

"Vultures were once the most abundant birds of prey in the world, but their numbers have been hammered in recent decades by habitat loss, inadvertent poisoning, and hunting," said Dr Andrew Jackson, Assistant Professor in Zoology.

 "Our study shows, as is often the case in the tangled web of ecology, that it is important to consider other species when trying to conserve vultures. In this case, conserving early rising raptors may help to boost the chance that vultures find enough food to survive."

The study was published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.