Newsletter / Blog

Bad news – Cape Vulture numbers decline.

After decades of conservation efforts for this endemic species, the population continues to decline. During the 2011 breeding season a total of only 2848 breeding pairs was recorded for the season. This is a drop from the previous years of 2900 breeding pairs.


The Cape Vulture - Gyps coprotheres - is Endemic to Southern Africa and is found mainly in South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana and Namibia.

A large vulture with near-naked head and neck. Adult creamy-buff, with contrasting dark flight- and tail-feathers. Pale buff neck-ruff. Underwing in flight has pale silvery secondary feathers and black alula. Yellowish eye, black bill, bluish throat and facial skin, dark neck. Juveniles and immatures generally darker and more streaked, with brown to orange eyes and red neck. The two prominent bare skin patches at the base of the neck, are thought to be temperature sensors and used for detecting the presence of thermals.

Calls are loud cackles, grunts, hisses and roars.

It nests on cliffs and usually lays one egg per year.

Monogamous colonial nester, breeding in colonies. They nest and roost on cliffs and usually lay one egg per year. The nest is mainly built by the female, consisting of a bulky platform of sticks, twigs and dry grass, with a shallow cup in the centre lined with smaller sticks and grass. It is typically placed on a cliff ledge, often using the same site over multiple breeding seasons.

The breeding season is between May and June with a single egg laid, which is incubated by both sexes for about 55 to 59 days. The chick is brooded constantly for the first 72 days, while both parents feed it. It eventually leaves the nest at about 125-171 days old, becoming fully independent about 15 to 221 days later.

Cape Vultures feed on carrion, searching aerially for a carcass to feed on. They can eat 1.5kg at a sitting, which is over 15 percent of the weight of an adult bird and can do this in five minutes. It slices off flesh with the sharp edge of its bill eating it and storing some in its crop, which can sustain it for about three days.

Vulnerable globally. It is regionally extinct in Swaziland and Critically Endangered in Namibia. Its global population has decreased dramatically, the current population is estimated at 8,000. This is thought to have been largely caused by habitat loss, persecution for use in traditional medicine, human disturbance of colonies, poisoning and improvements in animal husbandry resulting in a decreased availability of carrion.

These large Vultures can be seen on the following Aves Birding Tours/Safaris/Adventures: -

Aves Arid Birding Tour / Safari /Adventure.

Aves Eastern Cape Birding Tour / Safari /Adventure.

Aves Highlands / Tembe Birding Tour / Safari / Adventure.

Aves KZN Birding Tour / Safari / Adventure.

Aves North East Birding Tour / Safari / Adventure.

Aves North West Birding Tour / Safari / Adventure.

Aves Western Cape Birding Tour / Safari / Adventure.



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