Aegypius tracheliotos (Lappet-faced vulture) 

[= Torgos tracheliotus

SwartaasvoŽl [Afrikaans]; Isilwangangubo [Xhosa]; iNqe [Zulu]; Ekuvi (generic term for vulture) [Kwangali]; Letlaka-pipi [South Sotho]; Lenong le leso [North Sotho]; Gora (generic name for vulture) [Shona]; Lingce (generic term for vulture) [Swazi]; Koti (generic term for vulture) [Tsonga]; Bibing, LenŰng [Tswana]; Oorgier [Dutch]; Vautour oricou [French]; Ohrengeier [German]; Abutre-real [Portuguese]

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Deuterostomia > Chordata > Craniata > Vertebrata (vertebrates)  > Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates) > Teleostomi (teleost fish) > Osteichthyes (bony fish) > Class: Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fish) > Stegocephalia (terrestrial vertebrates) > Tetrapoda (four-legged vertebrates) > Reptiliomorpha > Amniota > Reptilia (reptiles) > Romeriida > Diapsida > Archosauromorpha > Archosauria > Dinosauria (dinosaurs) > Saurischia > Theropoda (bipedal predatory dinosaurs) > Coelurosauria > Maniraptora > Aves (birds) > Order: Falconiformes > Family: Accipitridae > Genus: Aegypius

Aegypius tracheliotos (Lappet-faced vulture) 

Lappet-faced vultures, Mkgadikgadi Pans, South Africa. [photo Gerhard Theron ©]

Aegypius tracheliotos (Lappet-faced vulture)  Aegypius tracheliotos (Lappet-faced vulture) 

Lappet-faced vultures, Etosha National Park, Namibia. [photo Trevor Hardaker ©]

Lappet-faced vulture, Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, South Africa. [photo Trevor Hardaker ©]

Distribution and habitat

Occurs in Israel, the Arabian peninsula and patches of sub-Saharan Africa. In southern Africa it is uncommon in Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, small areas of Mozambique and northern and eastern South Africa. It generally prefers arid and semi-arid open woodland, especially with Acacia, Shepherds-tree (Boscia albitrunca), Purple-pod cluster-leaf (Terminalia prunioides) and Mopane (Colosphermum mopane).

Distribution of Lappet-faced vulture in southern Africa, based on statistical smoothing of the records from first SA Bird Atlas Project (© Animal Demography unit, University of Cape Town; smoothing by Birgit Erni and Francesca Little). Colours range from dark blue (most common) through to yellow (least common). See here for the latest distribution from the SABAP2.  

Predators and parasites

Movements and migrations

Little known, although it might be nomadic in the non-breeding season.

Food 

Aegypius tracheliotos (Lappet-faced vulture) 

Lappet-faced vulture (center, with wings spread) stealing a scrap of food from a White-backed vulture. [photo Gerhard Theron ©]

It is mainly a scavenger, focusing on the skin, tendons and ligaments of carcasses that other birds struggle to handle. It is the largest and thus the dominant vulture of southern Africa, sometimes charging at other vultures like in the photo above. The carcasses it feeds on vary in size from the Vervet monkey (Cercopithecus aethiops) to Impala (Aepyceros melampus) and African elephant (Loxodonta africana). The following food items have been recorded in its diet:

Breeding

  • Monogamous, territorial solitary nester, probably with a lifelong pair bond.
  • The nest is built by both sexes, consisting of a large platform of sticks lined with dry grass, hair and skin. It is typically placed at the top of a free standing tree, especially the following:
    • Acacia
      • A. burkei (Black monkey-thorn)
      • A. nigrescens (Knob thorn)
    • Boscia (sheperds-trees)
    • Terminalia prunioides (Purple-pod cluster-leaf)
Aegypius tracheliotos (Lappet-faced vulture)   

Lappet-faced vulture pair at their nest. [photo Johan van Rensburg ©]

 
  • Egg-laying season is from February-October, peaking from May-June in Zimbabwe and from July-September.
  • It usually lays a single egg, rarely two, which is incubated by both sexes for about 55 days.
  • The chick is brooded almost constantly by both adults for the first four weeks or so of its life, after which brooding is more intermittent, ceasing completely after another four weeks or so. It is fed by both parents, leaving the nest at approximately 120-128 days old and becoming fully independent up to 170 days later.

Threats

Not threatened globally but Vulnerable in South Africa, Swaziland and Lesotho due its small and decreasing population and range. It is susceptible to poisoning, which is sometimes done deliberately so that parts of it can be harvested, for use in traditional medicine.

References

  • Hockey PAR, Dean WRJ and Ryan PG 2005. Roberts - Birds of southern Africa, VIIth ed. The Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town. 

 

 

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