Six surprisingly beautiful African vultures – Photos and Video

Up until recently I thought all vultures ugly, until I saw these beautiful African vultures at African Bird of Prey.

Six surprisingly beautiful African vultures – Photos and Video

If you’re like most people the word ‘vulture’ conjures up this image of a scrawny looking bird with a long bare neck and uglier head. You remember, like the two dense birds in original Jungle Book movie. The two of “What do you wanna do?” “I dunno what do you wanna do?” fame.

However, vultures are really not ugly and really not dense. Sadly some are in serious trouble and are either threatened or endangered. Largely due to habitat loss, killing for their brains or poisoning by poachers. Habitat loss is a common concern for all wildlife. Killing for their brains is based on a myth. A local myth that sniffing dried vulture brain can help foresee winning lotto numbers. More recently vultures are being poisoned by poachers to prevent them from alerting rangers of another downed animal, primarily rhino and elephant.

Let’s break the myth that vultures are ugly.

Six surprisingly beautiful African vultures

Each one of these birds was rescued. Each one of these birds cannot be released. Each one of these birds serves as an ambassador for its species. Each one of these birds is well taken care of at the African Bird of Prey Sanctuary in Kwazulu-Natal, South Africa.

Bearded Vulture rescued from a chicken coop

Bearded Vulture at the African Bird of Prey Sanctuary

Bearded vulture

My personal favorite. It really is a beautiful bird!

One of seven endangered vulture species in southern Africa, the beautiful Bearded Vulture is being pushed to extinction by habitat loss and degradation, together with human-raptor conflict. Often poisoned or shot, conservationists’ efforts to help local people better understand these misunderstood scavengers are vital in ensuring the Bearded Vulture continues to soar through the skies. Status: Near threatened.

White Headed Vulture at the African Bird of Prey Sanctuary

KZN ABOPS White-headed vulture sign

White headed vulture

If you could call a vulture ‘pretty’, then this species could be considered the prettiest! They are probably the most solitary of vultures, nesting at the very top of trees. Although often the first vultures to arrive at a carcass, they are not messy feeders and there is evidence that they sometimes catch their own prey. Status: Vulnerable.

White Backed Vulture at the African Bird of Prey Sanctuary

white backed vulture sign

White backed vulture

This smaller species is the most common in Southern Africa. Vultures provide an invaluable clean up service to people. Their scavenging nature rids our veld of carcasses and prevents the spread of disease. They glide at speeds of 58 to 65k per hour and locate their food with amazing eyesight which is, in fact, eight times better than our own. Status: Vulnerable.

Cape Vulture at the African Bird of Prey Sanctuary

Cape Vulture sign

Cape vulture

Young vultures wander great distances across the sub-continent for 5 to 6 years before they attain adulthood and return to a whitewashed cliff face colony to nest and breed. Their numbers have severely declined due to traditional medicine trade, power-line electrocutions and poisoning from illegally laced carcasses used to try and kill carnivores that threaten small livestock. Status: Vulnerable.

Hooded Vulture at the African Bird of Prey Sanctuary

Hooded vulture sign

Hooded vulture

These small, shy vultures are rarely seen outside reserves in southern Africa, but further north they are more plentiful and often associate people. Although not the first to arrive at carcasses, they are often first to tuck in until displaced by the larger species. They return afterwards and, using their long slender beaks, access the meat scraps from carcass crevices that the bigger scavengers missed. Status: Critically Endangered.

Palm Nut Vulture at the African Bird of Prey Sanctuary

Palm Nut Vulture sign

Palm nut vulture

The live of these curious, seagull-like species center around their favorite diet of palm nuts from groves of Oil or Rafia palms. Here they nest and feed primarily on the husks of the palm fruit. This vegetarian diet they supplement with crabs, fish and a variety of other scavenged food. Status: Least Concern.

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