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AnimalsFun Facts

The mighty Big 6 birds of the Kruger – Lappet-faced Vulture

By September 16, 2015No Comments
Vultures
Lappet-faced Vulture
Of the over 500 species of diverse birds found in the Kruger National Park, six of them are referred to as the Big 6 Birds of the Kruger National Park.

Vultures are New World vultures or like the lappet-faced vulture fall into the group of Old World vultures. The lappet-faced vulture falls into two subspecies; the African vulture and the Arabian vulture. The lappet-faced vulture is the most powerful of all African vultures with the strongest beak.

The lappet-faced vulture is so called due to its fleshy folds of skin, known as lappets, on the sides of its neck. They have a wingspan of up to 280cm and are 115cm in length. 

These vultures are blackish in colour with white thigh feathers and a white bar running across the edge of their under wings which are visible when flying. The African subspecies have black feathers on top lined with brown and their underside can range from white to brown while the Arabian subspecies are brown in colour on top.

The lappet-faced vulture has a reddish to dull pink in colour bald head. A bald head is easier to keep clean than a feathered head as spattered blood and small specks of flesh would be difficult to clean off. 
Vultures
Close up of a lappet-faced vulture
Habitat

These vultures live in the dry savannah or thorn bush areas in the plains of Africa and can also be found in the semi-arid desert. They prefer open land with a scattering of trees and little grass cover. These vultures build a private nest in their pairs away from other vultures.

Behaviour

Lappet-faced vultures are usually silent and stay with their partner although sometimes gather in numbers at watering holes or at the site of large carrion.

Diet

Vultures are well-known for being scavenger birds. They are opportunistic feeders, finding their food by sighting carrion from their perches or watching other vultures. The lappet-faced vulture is the most dominating and aggressive of all the African vultures and other vultures will back off of a carcass if the lappet-faced vulture affirms itself. 

A lappet-faced vulture will often wait for other vultures to finish feeding on a carcass so that they can strip apart the remnant skin, tendons and other tissues that the other vultures cannot eat. Lappet-faced vultures eat freshly killed smaller mammals, birds and reptiles sometimes even attacking young and frail live animals. They will also raid the nests of other birds in search of their young to feast on.  Vultures have been known to eat the remains of dead human bodies.

After a feast the lappet-faced vulture finds a watering hole nearby to wash any off their face and neck. Vultures have super strong stomach acid which eradicate bacteria which would kill other animals if ingested.
Reproduction

They start to breed from the age of 6 years old and most vultures mate for life. The female lays 1 or 2 eggs at a time which are nurtured by both parents and the young vulture hatches after spending 54 to 56 days in the egg. 

Vultures
Lappet-faced vulture landing.
The youngster usually leaves the nest between 124 to 135 days old but sometimes stay under their parents care for up to a year or more. Each pair may have one to three nests and are used over and over again.

Did you know?

They are able to shred a small antelope carcass to the bone within 20 minutes.

The species is listed as vulnerable.