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Vulture: White-backed Vulture

Identify and index birds in Southern Africa

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francoisd
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Vulture: White-backed Vulture

Unread postby francoisd » Wed Jul 12, 2006 12:52 pm

White-backed Vulture (Gyps africanus)

Other names:
Afrikaans: Witrugaasvoël
French: Vautour africain
German: Weißrückengeier
Dutch: Witruggier

The White-backed Vulture is a typical vulture, with a bald head, very broad wings and short tail. It has a white neck ruff. The adult’s whitish back contrasts with the otherwise dark plumage. Juveniles are largely dark.

Like other vultures it is a scavenger, feeding mostly from carcasses of dead animals which it finds by soaring over savannah and around human habitation. It often moves in flocks. White-backed Vultures are adapted to feeding on soft tissues (muscles, intestines etc) and cannot rip open the large carcasses which form the major part of their diet. They are therefore reliant on other vultures or mammals to break into the carcass.

It breeds in trees laying one egg. The population is mostly resident.

The White-backed Vulture is a typical vulture, with a bald head, very broad wings and short tail. It has a white neck ruff. The adult’s whitish back contrasts with the otherwise dark plumage. Juveniles are largely dark.

And as most of us know they are difficult to distinguish from Cape Vultures

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Re: Vulture: White-backed Vulture

Unread postby Katja » Wed Jul 12, 2006 2:39 pm

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francoisd wrote:And as most of us know they are difficult to distinguish from Cape Vultures

The white-backed vulture has a dark eye, the Cape vulture has a honey-coloured eye. So if you get a good view of the eye, they are easy to distinguish.
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Unread postby Jay » Wed Jul 12, 2006 7:42 pm

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Re: Vulture: White-backed Vulture

Unread postby francoisd » Thu Jul 13, 2006 8:58 am

katja wrote:The white-backed vulture has a dark eye, the Cape vulture has a honey-coloured eye. So if you get a good view of the eye, they are easy to distinguish.

Indeed! The main thing being getting a good view of the eye and correct lighting. When the light is from the wrong direction it is sometimes even difficult to pick up a Drongo's red eye!
Last edited by francoisd on Fri Jul 14, 2006 9:31 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Vulture: White-backed Vulture

Unread postby Katja » Thu Jul 13, 2006 9:12 am

I just read up on it. It's only the adult Cape Vulture that has the honey-coloured/straw-coloured eye. The juvenile Cape Vulture has a dark eye like the White-backed Vulture. :?
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Unread postby Katja » Sun Jul 16, 2006 7:35 pm

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Unread postby DinkyBird » Mon Sep 25, 2006 9:50 pm

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Kruger - Sept 2006
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Unread postby Jumbo » Tue Jul 08, 2008 10:17 am

Unfortunately the eye colour is not clearly visible on any of my photos, but what is the possibility that the vulture in front is a Cape Vulture? To put this sighting into context…we found several species of vultures at this sighting near Olifants….in this specific tree, the was a White-headed Vulture, Lappet-faced Vulture, Hooded Vulture and a few White-backed Vultures

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Unread postby wildtuinman » Tue Jul 08, 2008 11:13 am

I would go with Adult (background with dark neck) and Immature (Foreground) White-Backed Vultures.
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Unread postby wildtuinman » Tue Jul 08, 2008 12:30 pm

An adult Cape Vulture is uniformly paler than a White-Backed Vulture. Whilst the imm has a pinkish neck.
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Re: Vulture: White-backed Vulture

Unread postby Bahamut » Fri Sep 05, 2008 1:47 pm

After all the many years of trips to the Kruger, I noticed this for the 1st time :doh:
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H4-1, 1km west of Nkuhlu.

Never knew vultures breed in Kruger, was pleasantly surprised. Found another nest down near Pretoriuskop two days later, parents flew off before I could get a definitive id. They were either Lappet or White-headed from the flask of pink I got as they disappeared low over the trees.

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Re: Vulture: White-backed Vulture

Unread postby wildtuinman » Fri Sep 05, 2008 1:53 pm

A nice breeding site for White-Backed Vultures can be found from the lookout point on the Biyamithi private road.
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Re: Vulture: White-backed Vulture

Unread postby DinkyBird » Sat Sep 13, 2008 5:53 pm

S100 - Aug 2008
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Re: Vulture: White-backed Vulture

Unread postby Jumbo » Tue Oct 21, 2008 11:05 am

Below is a link to a video of probably one of our most dramatic sightings where White-backed Vultures were involved….this was Jan 2004 (if I remember correctly :redface: ) on the H1-5 between Olifants and Letaba

The one’s death is the other’s breath.

Some background detail (as I also explained in the description of the video)

A huge African Rock Python killed an Impala lamb. The python however abandoned it’s meal and hid in a shrub close-by when a few cars stopped at the scene….we could only see parts of the python, unfortunately not enough to get good footage. I later found out that the reason why the python left its meal is due to the vibration of cars that was left idling. :evil: A great number of vultures gathered at the scene (different species) but were kept away from the carcass for more that 30 min by the python’s intimidating huffing and puffing. Eventually, some White-backed Vultures gathered up the courage and went for the carcass. You can clearly hear the python’s “hissing” sounds at the beginning of the video. The vultures demolished the carcass in less than 15 min….we actually timed it. The commotion caused by the vultures attracted the attention of a male lion, but by the time he got there, there were only bones left.
A huge snake, vulture action and a male lion, all at one spot….that’s Kruger!

After all the action was finished, and all the other cars left, we sat there (silently) for another hour, hoping the snake will come out. It however did not budge. What did came back, was the mother of the impala….she circled the area, calling for the calf….this was sad to see :(

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Re: Vulture: White-backed Vulture

Unread postby wildtuinman » Wed Oct 22, 2008 6:59 am

Jumbo wrote:The vultures demolished the carcass in less than 15 min….we actually timed it.


Great sighting, Jumbo.

I've read somewhere that a famous raptor expert once witnessed 50 White-Backed vultures vultures finishing off 23kg of meat in 3 minutes. :big_eyes:
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