Vulture King

Lappet-faced Vulture (Torgos tracheliotus), Serengeti, Tanzania

The Lappet-faced Vulture is the largest and most dominant of the African vultures and it is hard to think of a more imposing bird. I have often seen a single adult dislodge dozens of griffon vultures from a carcass, spreading its wings and bounding forward in a menacing manner. With its massive, razor-edged bill, it slices through the hide of a dead antelope or zebra, to take its fill of flesh and open the way for other vulture species. Pairs occupy a vast home range of 50 square kilometres or more. As with all other vultures, this is now a threatened species, vulnerable to the reckless use of poisons by both commercial and subsistence farmers. There is also a large and seemingly growing market for vulture body parts, used in divination by so-called ‘witch-doctors’ or soothsayers.

Wingspan: 2.8 metres (9 feet)  Length from bill to tail: 1 metre (3 feet, 2 inches)  Weight: 6.5 kg (14 lbs)


About Duncan Butchart

Duncan Butchart is interested in all aspects of the natural world, with a particular fascination for birds and their ecological relationships.
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2 Responses to Vulture King

  1. Sam Parsons says:

    I was interested to read how little such a big bird weighs. Even Doughnut is 6.7kg. I would never have guessed that. It looks so imposing I thought it would be bulkier. Fascinating.

  2. nature works says:

    Yep, it IS a surprise, but that’s what you get when it’s all feathers and hollow bones! The Cape Vulture is smaller, with slightly shorter wings, but is considerably heavier at up to 9.5kg . .

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