I know that another question focuses on the meaning of the phrase in which this word is used, but I am only interested in the translation of the word itself (most answers to that question take the translation 'vultures' as a given).
The plural nominative noun ἀετοί (from ἀετός) in Matthew 24:28 is translated as 'vultures' by most modern translations. However, the KJV translated it literally as 'eagles' (see also Luke 17:37). The lexical entry for the noun in BDAG (2000) is:
ἀετός, οῦ, ὁ (since Hom., who, as do many after him, writes αἰετός early Attic [cp. Jos., Bell. 5, 48]; ins, pap, LXX; Test12Patr, ParJer; ApcMos 33; Jos., Bell. 1, 650f, Ant. 17, 151; Tat. 10, 1f; DELG s.v. αἰετός) eagle symbol of swiftness Rv 12:14 (s. Ezk 17:3, 7); cp. 4:7; 8:13 (s. Boll 37f; 113f—ἀ. πετόμενος as Job 9:26). Eating carrion, in the proverb (cp. Job 39:30) ἐκεῖ (ἐπι)συναχθήσονται οἱ ἀ. Mt 24:28; Lk 17:37 (where vulture is meant; Aristot., HA 9, 32, 592b, 1ff, and Pliny, Hist. Nat. 10, 3 also class the vulture among the eagles; TManson, Sayings of Jesus ’54, 147, emphasizes the swiftness of the coming of the Day of the Son of Man). Moses forbade eating of its flesh B 10:1, 4 (Dt 14:12; Lev 11:13).—M-M.
It is interesting that the lexicon says "where vulture is meant", as if the text is incorrect.
ἀετός, Ep., Lyr., Ion., and early Att. αἰετός (v. fin.), οῦ, ὁ, eagle, as a bird of omen, αἰ. τελειότατον πετεηνῶν Il.8.247, cf. 12.201, Od. 2.146 (cf. II): favourite of Zeus, ὅστε σοὶ αὐτῷ φίλτατος οἰωνῶν Il. 24.310, cf. Pi.P.1.6; Διὸς . . πτηνὸς κύων, δαφοινὸς αἰ. A.Pr.1022, cf. Ag.136; ὁ σκηπτροβάμων αἰ., κύων Διός S.Fr.885:—prov., αἰετὸς ἐν ποτανοῖς Pi.N.3.80; αἰετὸς ἐν νεφέλαισι, of a thing quite out of reach, Ar.Av.987; ἀετὸν κάνθαρος μαιεύσομαι (v. μαιεύομαι):—the diff. kinds are distinguished by specific names, Arist.HA618b18 sqq.
2.. eagle as a standard, of the Persians, X.Cyr.7.1.4; of the Romans, Plu.Mar.23, etc.
3.. the constellation Aquila, *Arat.591, Ptol. Tetr. 27, etc.
II. omen, Theoc.26.31.
III. eagle-ray, Myliobatis aquila, Arist. HA540b18.
IV. in Architecture, gable, pediment (from its resemblance to outspread wings, Gal.18(1).519), Ar.Av. 1110, ubi v. Sch., IG1.322 ii 80, cf. Pi.O.13.21, Fr.53, E.Fr.764; ὑπὸ τὸν αὐτὸν ἀετὸν ὑπελθεῖν come under the same roof, IG14.644 (Bruttii, iii B.C.).
V. name of bandage, Sor.Fasc.12.508C.
VI. temporal vein (Magna Graecia), Philistion ap.Ruf.Onom.201.
VII. iron part of spoke of wheel, Poll.1.145, Hsch.
VIII. Astrol. and Magic, fabulous plant growing in Libya, Pamphil. ap. Gal.11.798, Cat.Cod.Astr.7.222. (αἰετός in early Att. Inscrr., IG1.322ii80, 2.1054.39; αἰητός Arat.522, v.l. in Pi.P.4.4; αἰβετός (i.e. αἰϜετός) Hsch.) [ᾱ always.]
The Moulton & Milligan lexical entry mostly coincided with #4 (IV) from the LSJ entry above.
Is this a manuscript discrepancy, or might there be another explanation for the use of 'eagle' in this context? Or is 'vulture' a better translation?
Please keep answers restricted to the translation of the word ἀετοί itself as there is already another question concerning the meaning of the surrounding context.