Secretarybird and vultures
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Secretarybird L: 120–140 cm (47–55") |WS: 190–220 cm (75–87") The Sectretarybird is a very odd bird of prey in an ancient lineage and its own family . It is a tall, long-legged, crane-like, ground-loving raptor with distinctive quill-like plumes on its head and bright-red facial skin . In flight, the combination of dark trailing edge to the wing, diamond-shaped tail and long spatulate central tail projection is unmistakable . This bird is uncommon in Kruger, numbering about 300 individuals, and is declining throughout South Africa . It prefers open grasslands and savannahs, where it strides about searching for reptiles, small mammals and insects, which it bludgeons with its powerful legs . The strange name of the Secretarybird was once thought to originate from the quills on its head bearing some resemblance to the quill pens used by an office secretary in times past. However, it is more likely that the name is a corruption of saqr-et-tair, the Arabic name for the bird, which translates as‘hunter-bird’. The Secretarybird is featured on the South African national coat of arms. VU Secretarybird and vultures: 1 vultures in flight – page 177 180 HoodedVulture L: 62–72 cm (24–28") |WS: 155–165 cm (61–65") This is Kruger’s smallest vulture, and is mostly brown with a small, naked pink head, sparsely covered with velvety white down . Adults have a diagnostic drooping slender black bill and blue eye-ring, which are visible at close quarters, but young birds have grey facial skin and brown rather than white down on the nape . In flight it has a rounded tail, and silvery flight feathers and flies on flat or slightly drooped wings . Within South Africa, this rare but conspicuous bird is virtually restricted to Kruger, where the population is estimated at 50–100 pairs . The Hooded Vulture is easily displaced from carcasses by larger and more aggressive vultures, although its fine bill allows access to meat that its competitors cannot reach . Raptors are declining dramatically throughout the continent, and Kruger is a crucial stronghold for many species. Unfortunately, even here they are at risk, with poachers often deliberately poisoning birds to delay authorities from discovering poached mammal carcasses. A single poisoning event can kill hundreds of individuals and can be catastrophic for these long-lived birds which take many years to reach maturity and produce only a small number of young each year. As a result, many of the species covered in this section of the book are unfortunately now threatened with extinction. Birds of prey are a crucial element of Kruger’s ecosystem, with vultures disposing of carcasses, and other raptors hunting live prey. Because raptors in flight are best compared side-by-side, spreads featuring similar-looking soaring birds are shown on pages 177–179. CR BIRDS OF PREY AND VULTURES immature adult 181 ...


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