Vultures

Vital to Bush Health

©Peter Delaney
Lappet-face Vulture Walking towards a carcass.
Vultures play a vital role in the bush – they clean up dead and decaying carcasses and thereby remove centres of disease. They are often cast as motley, evil birds by the media but vultures have an array of marvellous adaptations that suit them perfectly to their ‘job description’.

Vultures lack feathers on their heads and necks. This is because they are inclined to insert these parts of their bodies directly into carcasses and if they were covered in feathers, these would easily become soiled. Soiled head feathers are a ‘health hazard’ and could cause infection or illness. Furthermore, preening these areas would prove difficult. Vultures are in fact very clean birds and most species will bathe regularly to rid themselves of unsanitary debris.

By Megan Emmett

Bearded Vulture

The bearded vulture will hunt live prey, specialising in tortoises, with the tortoises being dropped from a height, the same as the bones, to break open the shell....more

Cape Vulture

The Cape vulture is the heaviest of the Southern African vultures weighing in at up to 9 kgs and is mostly creamy dark brown in colour, with dark flight and tail feathers....more

Lappet-faced Vulture

The lappet-faced vulture will tackle parts of the carcass that is too tough for other breeds of vultures, like the skin, tendons and ligaments....more

Vulture Adaptations

Because of their naked heads and necks, vultures need to have a mechanism to control their temperature as heat exchanges easier through naked skin than through the insulation of feathers....more

Vulture Feeding and Breeding

The white-backed vultures are the most numerous and are frantic, noisy feeders hissing and mobbing one another to get their share of the spoils....more

White-backed Vulture

White-backed vultures are aggressive feeders and will push other animals, that are smaller than itself, away from a carcass....more

Why Do Vultures Use Thermals?

Vultures use thermals to gain a height vantage to look for food and by moving from one thermal to the next they can survey vast areas while foraging....more