Cape Vulture

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Common Name: Cape Vulture
Scientific Name: Gyps coprotheres

Size: 38-45 inches (96-115 cm); Wingspan: 90-102 inches (226-260 cm)

Habitat: Africa; found mainly in South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana and in some parts of northern Namibia.

Status: Vulnerable. Global Population: 5300-6700 mature individuals. The population is estimated to have declined by 10% between 1994 and 1999, and over the period 1992-2007, the species declined by 60-70% in eastern South Africa. Until further analysis is carried out the overall rate of decline is presumed to be at, or just exceeding 20% over three generations.

Sixteen known or suspected mortality factors were identified and ranked at an expert workshop with a decrease in the amount of carrion (particularly during chick-rearing), inadvertent poisoning, electrocution on pylons or collision with cables, loss of foraging habitat and unsustainable harvesting for traditional uses considered the most important factors. Further threats include disturbance at colonies, bush encroachment and drowning. In southern Africa, vultures are caught and consumed for perceived medicinal and psychological benefits. It is estimated that 160 vultures are sold and that there are 59,000 vulture-part consumption events in eastern South Africa each year, involving an estimated 1,250 hunters, traders and healers. At current harvest levels, the populations of this species in the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Lesotho could become locally extinct within 44-53 years. Should the populations of White-backed Vultures G. africanus become depleted first, the resultant increase in hunting pressure on G. coprotheres could cause a population collapse within the subsequent 12 years. Extrapolation from a limited study of traditional healers in Maseru, Lesotho, suggests that, conservatively, nearly 7% of the breeding population in that country would be lost annually for such use.

The species suffers mortality from the ingestion of poison left for pests (not vultures) and potentially Diclofenac, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug often used for livestock, and which is fatal to Gyps spp. when ingested at livestock carcasses. In 2007, Diclofenac, was found to be on sale at a veterinary practice in Tanzania. In addition, it was reported that in Tanzania, a Brazilian manufacturer has been aggressively marketing the drug for veterinary purposes and exporting it to 15 African countries. A single poisoning incident can kill 50-500 birds, making the species susceptible to sudden local declines. The collapse of a key colony in eastern Botswana has been attributed to human disturbance, especially insensitive. The ongoing urbanization around Hartbeespoort Dam and the Magaliesberg Mountains, South Africa, has limited the extent of natural areas for foraging by vultures, perhaps resulting in their reliance on supplementary food at vulture "restaurants". If such restaurants were closed, vultures might be exposed to unsafe carcasses. Poor grassland management in some areas has promoted bush encroachment, making finding carcasses more difficult for vultures.

There are records of at least 120 individuals (21 incidents) of this species drowning in small farm reservoirs in southern Africa between the early 1970s and late 1990s, although modifications to many reservoirs have now been. Raptors are thought to drown after attempting to bathe or drink, with mass vulture drownings probably due to the triggering of group behavior by the actions of one bird. In Magaliesberg. a large number of fatalities have been associated with powerline collisions and electrocutions, and this is one of the main factors causing the ongoing decline of the species in South Africa. Patterns in the contraction of the species’ range since the 1950s imply that climate change could be an underlying factor driving its decline through changes in habitats and decreases in prey populations, though further research is required to confirm a link.

Diet: Wide variety of carrion; specializing on large carcasses , it flies long distances over open country, although usually found near mountains, where it breeds and roosts on cliffs.

Nesting: Very large vulture with near-naked head and neck. Adult creamy-buff, with contrasting dark flight- and tail-feathers. Pale buff neck-ruff. Underling in flight has pale silvery secondary feathers and black alula. Yellowish eye, black bill, bluish throat and facial skin, dark neck. Juveniles and immatures generally darker and more streaked, with brown to orange eyes and red neck. While similar to White-backed Vulture (G. africanus), the white-backed is smaller and, usually, darker, with more streaking and different wing pattern.

It nests on cliffs and lays one egg per year.

Cool Facts: The Cape Vulture is also known as the Griffon Cape or Kolbe's Vulture. After the Himalayan Griffon Vulture and the Cinereous Vulture, the Cape vulture is the third largest Old World Vulture.

It is reported that a lack of adult females in the relict Namibian population may have led to four males breeding with G. africanus, although this is not thought to be a problem across southern Africa.

Found in Songbird Remix Vultures2

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