Gyps coprotheres (Cape vulture) 

KransaasvoŽl [Afrikaans]; Ixhalanga [Xhosa]; iNqe [Zulu]; Ekuvi (generic term for vulture) [Kwangali]; Lenong, Letlaka [South Sotho]; Khoti, Mavalanga [Tsonga]; Diswaane, LenŰng [Tswana]; Kaapse gier [Dutch]; Vautour chassefiente [French]; Kapgeier [German]; Grifo do Cabo [Portuguese]

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Gyps coprotheres (Cape vulture)  Gyps coprotheres (Cape vulture) 
Cape vulture. [photo Callie de Wet ©] Cape vulture. [photo Callie de Wet ©]
Gyps coprotheres (Cape vulture) 

Cape vulture. [photo Callie de Wet ©]

Distribution and habitat

Near-endemic to southern Africa, occurring in patches of Namibia, southern Zimbabwe, Lesotho and north-eastern and south-eastern South Africa, with a localised population in the Western Cape; it is a rare vagrant to Angola. It can occupy a variety of habitat types, although it especially favours subsistence farming communal grazing areas, where there is plenty of livestock to feed on.

Distribution of Cape 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

Its eggs are eaten by Papio ursinus (Chacma baboon), and the chicks are prey of Aquila verreauxii (Verreauxs' eagle).

Movements and migrations

Resident and partially nomadic, as adults may travel up to about 750 km from their colony in the non-breeding season.


It eats carrion, searching aerially for a carcass to feed on; once on the scene it is dominant over almost all other vultures, except the larger Lappet-faced vulture. It slices off flesh with the sharp edge of its bill, eating some of it and storing more in it's crop, which can sustain it for about three days.

Gyps coprotheres (Cape vulture) 

A Black-jackal challenges a Cape vulture for a piece of meat, Giant's Castle, South Africa. [photo Johann Grobbelaar ©]

Gyps coprotheres (Cape vulture) 

The vulture bites the jackal on the nose, which causes it to retreat. [photo Johann Grobbelaar ©]


  • Monogamous colonial nester, breeding in colonies of up to about 1000 breeding pairs, each separated by roughly 2.5 metres.
  • 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.
  • Egg-laying season is from May-June.
  • It usually lays a single egg (rarely two), which is incubated by both sexes for about 55-59 days.
  • The chick is brooded constantly for the first 72 days of its life, while both parents feed it on meat and bone fragments for calcium. It eventually leave the nest at about 125-171 days old, becoming fully independent about 15-221 days later; the fledgling is always chased off the territory by its parents at the start of the following egg-laying season.


Vulnerable globally, Regionally extinct in Swaziland and Critically Endangered in Namibia; its global population has decreased from roughly 3460 breeding pairs in 1980 to about 2950 pairs in 2000. This is thought to have been caused largely by habitat loss, persecution for use in traditional medicine, human disturbance of colonies, poisoning and improvements in animal husbandry, which result in a decreased availability of carrion.


  • 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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