White-backed Vulture (Gyps africanus)

White-backed Vulture

White-backed Vulture

The White-backed Vulture (Gyps africanus) is a large bird of prey occurring in much of sub-Saharan Africa. The species can be found from Senegal in the west to Somalia in the east and (with a gap encompassing the tropical rain forests) up to northern South Africa. Like other vultures, the birds are mostly scavengers feeding primarily on carcasses of larger mammals. They can form flocks of several dozen individuals and find their food by soaring above the savannah grasslands. Due to shrinking populations, the conservation status of the species was updated to “Endangered” in 2012. I have seen these imposing birds in a number of places in southern Africa, but the photographs in this post were taken in the Etosha National Park of northern Namibia in February 2007.

ready for take-off

ready for take-off

a bunch of White-backed Vultures and two Gemsbok

a bunch of White-backed Vultures and two Gemsbok

vultures at a water hole

vultures at a water hole

gliding

gliding

White-backed Vultures

White-backed Vultures

12 responses to “White-backed Vulture (Gyps africanus)

  1. Sadly a familiar sight only in our game reserves these days; outside protected areas they’ve become very rare. I love your “ready for take-off” picture, Matthias!

    • thanks a lot for your comment! Why are they disappearing outside of reserves? Are they hunted? I could imagine that there are still enough large mammal carcasses outside of reserves…

      • Sadly poisoning is the biggest issue. Sometimes the poisoning is accidental, meant for “problem animals” like jackal but then the vultures get there first. Other times the vultures are specifically targeted, being seen as a vital ingredient in certain traditional African “medicine” – there’s a superstition that vultures can see the future, so lotto-hopefuls pay big money for their eyes and brains. Sickening really.

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