This week we are going to take a look into this majestic bird, the Cape vulture
Common name: Cape Vulture or Cape Griffon
Species: Gyps coprotheres (Foster, 1798)
Conservation status: Endangered (since 2015)
Diet: Scavenger, mainly feeds on carrion.
Length: up to 115 cm
Weight: up to 11 Kg
Wingspan: up to 2,6 m
Average life span in the wild: average 16 years, but up to 30 years
Cape vulture or Cape griffon is not only aesthetically striking, but it is also particularly intelligent. It is the third-largest Old World vulture and it is the largest raptor in South Africa.
This species is one of the largest southern African vultures and the lightest in colour, being mostly whitish grey above flecked with brown. They normally present a blue grey head and neck that are sparsely covered with white down, but at the base of the neck there are a few rows of long feathers forming a grey-buff collar. Apart from the slightly size difference (female are larger), there is little difference between both sexes, so it is quite difficult to differentiate between males and females.
Gyps coprothere it is an endemic species from southern Africa. They can be found in South Africa, Lesotho, eastern and south-eastern Botswana and in the south of Mozambique and Angola. In the democratic republic of Congo and in Zambia, there are not as much individuals as there were in the past. Furthermore, this species cannot be found anymore (extinct) in Namibia and Swaziland.
This species does not seem to have a defined breeding season, but it takes places mainly between March and January. They nest on cliffs ledges in communities of at least 6 pairs. The nest can be made from almost anything, vary from lots of vegetative mater or just a few sticks.
The female lays one egg, which both parents incubate over a period of 57 days. The nestling period can vary from 125 to 171 days. The young adult is dependent on both parents for food up to 221 days. The young individuals normally form groups to forage and roost some distance from their breeding sites, promoting this way an interaction between different populations
Cape vultures it is a long-lived carrion-feeder, mainly feeding on large carcasses. This species flies long distances over open country and inhabits open grassland, savanna and shrubland, even though most of the time they can be found near steep terrain, where they normally breed and roost on cliffs.
The Cape griffon is a gregarious, social bird that enjoy living and scavenging in large groups. At any one carcass, there may be a large group of individuals vying for food. Due to this behaviour there is sometimes some aggressive displays amongst the birds. Often some of the individuals put their entire head and neck under the skin of the dead animal, or even climb into its body cavity.