restricted access Vultures
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CapeVulture L: 96–115 cm (38–45") |WS: 225–260 cm (89–102") This impressive vulture is creamy-white overall and much paler and generally larger than the otherwise similar White-backed Vulture, and glides with its wings slightly raised . At close range, the adults’ honey-coloured eyes and a speckled stripe across the middle of each wing are distinctive features . The immature is heavily streaked (see page 177) . The Cape Vulture is endemic to southern Africa and an uncommon visitor to Kruger, foraging in the park and returning to its breeding colonies on the escarpment, hundreds of kilometres away . The two patches of naked skin at the base of the neck are thought to be temperature sensors for detecting thermals . EN Vultures: 2 vultures in flight – page 177 182 White-backedVulture L: 78–98 cm (31–39") |WS: 195–225 cm (77–89") A fairly large, brownish vulture which, on the ground, can be seen to have a very long, sparsely downy neck . It is likely to be confused only with the much rarer Cape Vulture but is usually smaller and darker overall . In flight, adults show pale underwing coverts contrasting strongly with the darker body and a diagnostic white rump, most often visible when the bird is banking; immatures are more difficult to identify . Like Cape Vulture, it glides with its wings slightly raised . White-backed Vulture is by far the commonest vulture in Kruger, although the population in the park may only number 600–900 pairs . Loose breeding colonies are scattered in tall trees . This species is highly susceptible to poisoning . CR BIRDS OF PREY AND VULTURES immature adult 183 Lappet-facedVulture L: 115 cm (45") |WS: 250–290 cm (98–114") This vulture, Africa’s largest, has a massive, square, naked head with wrinkled loose flaps of skin (‘lappets’) on the face, and a bulky two-tone bluish-yellow bill . Adults are brownbacked with a brown-and-white-streaked chest and puffy white ‘leggings’; immatures are all-brown . In flight, the massive size, very broad wings held flat or arched, white leggings, and, in adults, narrow white line towards the front of the wing characterize this leviathan of the skies . Like all the African vultures, this species is declining, and is an uncommon resident in Kruger, where the total population is estimated at about 250, with as few as 78 pairs breeding . Although it occurs throughout the park, it tends to favour areas with relatively sparse grass and tree cover, in the southern third of Kruger . However, birds range over vast areas and have incredible eyesight, frequently being seen at kills . On arrival at a carcass, this vulture tends to dominate the scene with its intimidating bulk . It hisses and scowls, opens its wings, and hops aggressively towards other scavengers . It will take on others far larger than itself, such as jackals and Marabou Storks, in order to maintain its status at a kill . While the bald head does not add to this bird’s beauty, it is highly practical in avoiding feathers becoming soiled when the bird plunges its head into a carcass . Other vultures are often reliant on this species to open up parts of the carcass that their more dainty bills cannot breach . Individuals can eat up to 1·5 kg of meat at any one time . One of the BIG 6 EN Vultures: 3 vultures in flight – page 177 184 White-headedVulture L: 84 cm (33") |WS: 200–230 cm (79–91") A medium-sized, mostly dark brown vulture with an angular, naked, pink head and bulky, coral-coloured bill (although juveniles are all-brown) . In flight the adults’ white ‘armpits’ extend out as a stripe along the middle of the underwing . The larger females can be told from males by having all-white innermost flight feathers (secondaries) . The 50–80 pairs that occur within Kruger represent the main South African population of this rare resident species . This vulture is often one of the first species to arrive at a carcass, where it dominates most other raptors except the much larger Lappet-faced Vulture . It has been known to steal the kills of eagles and sometimes hunts and kills small mammals, birds and reptiles . CR BIRDS OF PREY AND VULTURES adult immature 185 ...