Neophron percnopterus (Egyptian vulture) 

Egiptiese aasvoël [Afrikaans]; Inkqo [Xhosa]; uPhalane [Zulu]; Lehonyane, Tlakatsooana [South Sotho]; Mpenyani [Tsonga]; aasgier, Egyptische gier, witte krenggier [Dutch]; Vautour percnoptère [French]; Schmutzgeier [German]; Abutre do Egipto [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

Neophron percnopterus (Egyptian vulture)   

Egyptian vulture, India. [photo Arpit Deomurari ©]

 

Distribution and habitat

Occurs in southern Europe, North Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa. In southern Africa it was previously uncommon, but since the 1940s it has become more and more rare; today it is nearly extinct in the region, with isolated populations in north-west Namibia, northern Limpopo Province and central Mozambique. It has also been recorded as a vagrant to Zimbabwe, the Northern and Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal. It generally prefers arid open habitats, such as plains and semi-desert, occasionally moving to the seashore.

Distribution of Egyptian 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).

Movements and migrations

Not well understood, but it may still be a breeding resident in Namibia, Mozambique and Limpopo Province.

Food 

Most of its foraging time is spent scavenging, soaring high up in the air, then descending to the feed on a carcass. Due to its small size relative to other scavengers, it is low on the pecking order, so it collects scraps of food along the outskirts of the area around the carcass. It also eats a variety of bird eggs, especially of ostriches, flying next the egg and hurling a stone at it until it breaks. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:

Breeding

  • There are very few southern African breeding records, hence there is scant information on its breeding habits.
  • Monogamous solitary nester, building a large platform of sticks lined with soft material, such as sheepskin. In one instance it was placed in a natural cavity on a cliff ledge.
  • Egg-laying season is from August-November, possibly December.
  • It lays 1-2 eggs, which in Europe are incubated for about 42 days.
  • The chicks stay in the nest for approximately 77 days (also recorded in Europe).

Threats

Not internationally threatened, but nearly extinct in southern Africa, as it is not certain that it even breeds in the region anymore; the last breeding record was in 1923. This is thought to have been caused by a great reduction in the number of indigenous antelope herds, improved hygiene around human settlements and competition from introduced scavengers such as pigs. It has also been impacted by persecution by ostrich farmers, and incidental poisoning.

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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