E CapeFree StateGautengKZNLimpopoMpumalangaNorth WestN CapeW Cape
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South Africa Holiday: Vultures scavenging

South Africa Holiday: Vultures

Family = Accipitridae. Small to huge birds of prey. Many species have streaked or barred underparts and plumage is usually grey or brown. Most are well adapted for catching prey, with hooked bills and powerful feet which end in sharp toenails. They scavenge or hunt a wide variety of prey, from insects to small antelope.


Bearded Vulture

Afrikaans = Baardaasvoël
South Africa Holiday: A pair of bearded vultures
South Africa Holiday: Bearded vulture in flightShape in flight is unlike any other in the region: the long narrow pointed wings and long wedge-shaped tail make the bird resemble a huge falcon. The adult is mainly dark above and rust-coloured underparts and has a black mask across the face, terminating in a black 'beard'.
Habitat: The Bearded Vulture is confined to the higher reaches of the Drakensberg  mountains. Rare and thinly distributed.

Cape vulture

Afrikaans: Kransaavoël
South Africa Holidays: Cape vultures
South Africa Holiday: Cape vulture restingDifficult to distinguish from the White-backed Vulture, the Cape vulture is usually much whiter in appear-ance, with dark flight feathers contrasting with pale wing linings. Two bare patches of blue skin at the base of the neck are diagnostic.
Habitat: The Cape vulture is wide ranging throughout South Africa, but breeds on cliffs.

Lappet-faced Vulture

Xhosa = Isilwangangubo
Afrikaans = Swartaasvoël
South Africa Holiday: Lappet-faced vulture in flight
South Africa Holiday: Lappet-faced vulture at restAt close range the bare red skin on face and throat is diagnostic. In flight, the white thighs and white bar running along the forepart of the under-wing from the carpel joint to the body, are conspicuous.
Habitat: The Lappet-faced Vulture is found in the thornveld and drier regions across the northern parts of South Africa, particularly in game reserves in the Northern Cape, North West, Limpopo and Mpumalanga.

Lekker Links

Science in Africa
Endangered Wildlife Trust

African White-backed vulture

Afrikaans = Witrugaasvoël
South Africa Holiday: White-faced vulture sunning itself
South Africa Holiday: White-faced vultures in electricity pylons north of KimberleyIf seen from above or when banking steeply in flight, the adult has a white lower back which contrast with dark upper wings. This contrast is not as marked as the Cape Vulture. It is also smaller than the Cape Vulture and more of a bushveld species, avoiding mountainous cliffs.
Habitat: The White-backed Vulture is found in open savannah parkland. The most frequently seen vulture in bushveld game reserves, being common in the northern parts of South Africa. There are many breeding pairs on farms just north of Kimberley, where they can be seen in pylons or even flying over the city.

White-headed Vulture

Afrikaans = Witkopaasvoël
South Africa Holiday: White-headed vulture taking off
South Africa Holiday: White-headed vulture restingThis is the only dark vulture with large white wing patches in Southern Africa. These patches are confined to the second-aries and are white in the female and off-white to grey in the male. The triangular-looking head and the neck are white, the naked face is pink, and the bill is orange with a blue base.
Habitat: The white-headed vulture is uncommon and rarely seen outside game reserves. It can be found in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier National Park as well as national parks in Limpopo and Mpumalanga.
South Africa is home to no less than nine vulture species. Seven of these are listed in the Red Data Book of Birds of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland as facing a certain degree of threat of extinction. The Egyptian Vulture is one of only two bird species listed as “Regionally Extinct” in South Africa. The Bearded Vulture, whose range in southern Africa is restricted to the Maluti-Drakensberg mountains, is classified as “Endangered” and continues to decline in numbers due to a range of factors. The Cape Vulture only occurs within southern Africa. Other species, such as the Lappet-faced, Hooded, White-headed and African White-backed Vulture mostly occur in large conservation areas and are listed as “Vulnerable”.
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