Before elaborating on the different type of Vultures in Africa let me tell you a Story.
A legend of the Yoruba tribe of western Africa tells of a time when the land was dry from lack of rain and the crops were dying. In order to make a sacrifice to the storm god, a ram was killed and put in a basket to be carried to heaven. All of the birds busied themselves with other tasks so they would not have to perform the lowly task of carrying the ram to heaven. Finally, the vulture, whom nobody liked, agreed to carry the sacrifice. At once, rain fell upon the land. When the vulture returned, he found that his home had been flooded and destroyed. When he went to the other birds for help, they all turned him away. To this day, the vulture remains an outcast, eating food from dumps; and he remains bald because the fire of the sacrifice scorched the feathers from his head and neck.
On Africa’s Gold Coast, the royal family at Kumasi values the Vulture’s scavenging work and holds the bird as sacred and protects it by law.
The scientific name, Necrosyrtes monachus, literally means “a monk-like (bird) that drags away the dead.”
Now that we have read about the interesting legend surrounding the African Vulture lets know more about the different types of vultures found in Africa
The Hooded Vulture
The Hooded Vulture is commonly referred to as “The Garbage Collector” since it’s not afraid of humans and is found around towns and villages. They depend on the presence of places like slaughterhouses and open markets.
They are the weakest and smallest vultures in Africa and hence opportunistic feeders. They mainly feed on decaying flesh from animal carcasses.
Hooded Vultures are very devoted towards their mate and always seen roosting together outside the breeding season.
The Lappet Faced Vulture
The Lappet-faced Vulture is also known as the Nubian Vulture. It is the largest African vulture and among the rarest of all vultures. It has a wingspan of 2.6 metres and stands more than one meter tall. The Lappet-faced Vulture is named for the loose skin (lappets) which hang from the red featherless head.
The lappet-faced vulture is also one of the most aggressive of African birds. It possesses one of the strongest beaks, usually arriving last to the carcass due to its ability to tear off flesh that is too tough for smaller scavengers. In fact, they are able to strip a small antelope carcass to the bone within 20 minutes. Because of their dominating size, they will often scare off or steal from smaller vultures
The Egyptian vulture is a small white bird, with black flight feathers, a bare yellow face and an untidy feather mane cascading from the head and neck
Carrion and scraps are usually the main food, however, the bird is known to take a stone in its bill and hurl it at an ostrich egg until the shell cracks open
Also known as the “Pharaoh’s Chicken” because one of the early pharaohs forbade anyone to kill an Egyptian vulture. He reasoned the clean-up job these birds did was too important to lose even one bird
With its extensive white plumage, and black wing and tail feathers, the adult palm-nut vulture can be crudely mistaken for both the African fish eagle and the Egyptian vulture, but clearly lacks the chestnut body of the former and the white tail of the latter
This vulture gets its name from its primary food, which, shockingly for a bird of prey, is not meat, but the nut of the Oil Palm. It will also take dead meat on occasion like most vultures
When feeding on palm fruit they hang upside down below the fruit, pull it off the tree with their beaks and then hold it in their feet to eat it. Interestingly they have started to use a similar technique for taking carrion as it enables them to pull off strips of meat easily
Cape Griffons are arguably the largest of all the African Vultures, being similar in size to the Lappet-Faced vulture. Although Lappet-Faced vultures appear more aggressive, they are easily dominated by the powerful Cape Griffon.
Feeding solely on dead animals, the Cape Griffon’s diet consists of nothing smaller than antelope. They are invariably the dominant figure at feeding sites, capable of holding out against jackals and even war hogs
They are particularly vocal when feeding, defending their food noisily from smaller vultures as well as each other
Its South Africa’s most endangered species and suffers from secondary poisoning, disturbance of nesting sites, and electrocution.
Did you know? The Cape Griffon vulture is often harvested for use in “muti” or witch-doctor medicine. The bird is believed by some cultures to have clairvoyant abilities that explain their knack for finding animal carcasses almost immediately after death. Because of this, the birds’ brains are sometimes consumed by individuals seeking clairvoyant power.
Rüppell’s Griffon is named in honor of Eduard Rüppell, a 19th-century German explorer, collector and zoologist. Rüppell’s Vulture is considered to be the world’s highest-flying bird, with confirmed evidence of a flight at an altitude of 11,000 metres above sea level
Ruppell’s griffin is a very social bird. Unlike some vultures, it nests in colonies of up to 100 pairs or more. Their circling motion is an alert to other vultures that a carcass has been spotted. Soon, a flock of vultures will be on the scene
They have a very powerful bill and, after the most attractive soft parts of the prey have been consumed, they will continue with the hide, and even the bones, gorging themselves until they can barely fly. They have backward-facing splines on the tongue to help remove meat from bone.
Now that we know so much about the Vultures found in Africa don’t you think it would be exciting to view them for our selves in the vast countryside of Africa? Call us to discuss travel options to South Africa and the surrounding areas and we will be more then willing to help you find a perfect package. Namaste :p