12 May A day in the life of … a Vulture, one of our Endangered Species
So Vulture’s story begins…
Some of you may know me by a few colloquialisms – The Grim Reaper, The Undertaker, Garbage Gobbler … but to be a bit more exacting, I am the Lappet-Faced Vulture. And as you may know, I am a fairly rare character … I am considered an endangered species.
How did I get to be considered endangered as a species? Well, it’s a question that I have often contemplated while scanning the landscape from elevated resting points. I have had family poached and cousins poisoned (which is a particularly terrible and painful way to end an existence) and it seems that the human species believe a myth that claims my body has mystical powers if added to medicine. This is entirely untrue of course. If only they knew.
It is true we have power, but this lies in opening up a carcass on the ground with our powerful beaks, and kind of ruling the roost when it comes to this kind of scavenging.
Lappet-Faced Vultures are not exactly considered the supermodels of the winged variety, but what I perhaps lack in beauty, I make up for in savvy and dominance when it comes to vultures. I have a powerful beak that can tear thick skin, ligaments and tendons apart, which means that I usually command the carcass and get a good feed in.
You may recognise my kind by a beautifully (and rather practical) bare head with pink and blue skin. I have prominent skin folds and lappets on my face and neck. I have a proud 2,5 to 3 metres wingspan to carry me and scan for carrion by watching other vultures or scanning for kills. I have a preference for big game animals (more I eat, means happier me) but regularly feed on freshly killed smaller mammals, birds and reptiles. Some of these will be from road-kill or are pirated from eagles or other raptors. I will occasionally attack live animals if I need to feed, preying on the young and weak animals and the nests and young of other birds. On a kill, I will often feast on the bits that other vultures aren’t so keen on, like the tendons and coarse tissues.
I am a solitary character by nature but can be seen congregating with others at a waterhole or feeding spot. I enjoy a home range of about 8 – 15 kms if I can, and will occasionally share a tree with another vulture for nesting (preferably not though).
I came to Nambiti Private Game Reserve because this neighbourhood particularly suits my needs. I prefer to live in dry savannah, thornbush, arid plains and open mountain slopes. I can be found enjoying undisturbed open country with a scattering of trees, and prefer areas with minimal grass cover.
As a vulture, I am considered to be a pretty long-lived bird. I can start finding a mate at about 7 years old and if I survive, can live for between 20 to 50 years. If I do breed, my mate will build a massive nest of sticks, lined with grass and positioned on the crown of a tree. Usually, one egg is laid in the nest, but the breeding success rate is only about 44%, which means if we reach maturity, it is quite a special thing.
If you get a chance to see me, I have probably long seen you already. I will probably be searching for my next meal or recovering from the last one in a tree. Maybe you can do me a favour and spread my story to your mates to look out for me next time?