Lammergeiers of the Drakensberg

A Magnificent Golden-Plumed Bird

At the southern end of the Drakensberg, in Lesotho's Sehlaba-Thebe National Park, a cloud-flecked mountain with three connected peaks is reflected in the park's many tarns. 

©Shem Compion
The Lammergeier (bearded vulture) in the Drakensberg.

The mountain is appropriately called Thaba Ntsu, the Mountain of the Lammergeier, for this high-land wilderness is the subcontinent's only remaining sanctuary of the lammergeier, or bearded vulture. One of only two lammergeier eggs ever to be collected was recovered here in 1883.

This magnificent golden-plumed bird, half eagle and half vulture, relies on a diet of bone fragments from carrion and the scraps left by Lesotho's semi-nomadic herders. Like the American condor the lammergeier is threatened by its shrinking habitat, and in its area is considered one of the most endangered bird species.

Lammergeier Hide

©Shem Compion
A Lammergeier (bearded vulture) hide.

Situated in the uKhahlamba-Drakensberg Park, the Lammergeier hide at Giant’s Castle is a stone structure built in the mountainside specifically to view the rare, bearded vulture.

The hide overlooks a vulture restaurant where KZN Wildlife staff leave meat and bones to attract Lammergeiers and other raptors, most notably black eagle, lanner falcon, Cape vulture and jackal buzzard. Many bird species prefer very distinct altitudinal habitats. So, if you take a walk from the rest camp (1800 m) to the top of the escarpment (2860 m) bird species change as you ascend.