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The White-headed Vulture (Aegypius occipitalis) is one of five species of vultures that can be seen at Ingwelala. Of huge concern is the steady decline of population numbers for the White-headed Vulture.
Up until 2004 the IUCN Red List of Endangered Species categorised the White-headed Vulture as “Least Concern”, by 2007 is was recategorized as “Vulnerable” and in 2015 it was listed as “Critically Endangered”.
Despite a wide sub-Saharan range, populations have declined dramatically with an estimate of only 5500 birds left. In several areas of its known range local extinction has occurred. Declining numbers are due to habitat degradation and mass poisoning of carcasses that vultures feed on.
White-headed Vultures are classed as medium sized vultures, the wingspan is an impressive 2 – 2.3 metres in adult birds. Females are heavier in mass than males, averaging around 4.7 kilogrammes. In identification, the White-headed Vulture may be confused with the larger Lappet-faced Vulture. The pink to orange beak and pinkish feet are distinguishing features to look out for.
These vultures nest in trees, preferring baobabs and thorn trees. They are monogamous breeders. In southern Africa breeding occurs in winter when a single egg is laid. Incubation is usually 55 days and fledging is around 115 days.
Diet is any meat sourced from either scavenging, stealing or killing. Stranded fish are also consumed.
Facts researched on the Internet, words by John Llewellyn. Pictures courtesy Charlie Lynam.