Where do vultures live?
With such a variety of vulture species in Africa, these birds can be found in most kinds of habitats. In wooded areas, you’ll find white-backed, palmnut and white-headed vultures; while in arid, semi-desert regions you’ll see Rüppell’s, lappet-faced and hooded vultures. Cape vultures and bearded vultures, meanwhile, can be found in more mountainous areas.
Tags: Botswana, Kenya, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe, East Africa, Southern Africa, West/Central Africa, Kilimanjaro, Limpopo, Samburu, Zambezi, Great Fish River, Maasai Steppe, Ethiopia, Bale Mountains
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What is a vulture?
Vultures vary in size and appearance depending on their species. Colors range from white to brown to black with white accents, and many species have a bare crown, face and neck, accompanied by a neat or scraggly ruff of feathers.
They’ve got all the right tools.
Unique adaptations make vultures some of the most successful scavengers in Africa. Soaring on updrafts allows them to cover great distances, while strong eyesight enables them to easily detect potential meals. Low pH levels in a vulture’s stomach help to digest rotting meat quickly and without issue.
Species specialization prevents squabbles over food.
While several species of vulture rely almost exclusively on carrion for sustenance, others, like the Egyptian, lappet-faced and white-headed vulture, are known to hunt fish, reptiles and small mammals. The palmnut vulture even eats fruit!
For those species that do dine on carrion, specialized beaks and behaviors equip them to eat different parts of a carcass, reducing competition for food. For example, bone makes up roughly 85 percent of a bearded vulture’s diet. In order to get to the nutritious marrow, these birds use their strong beaks to crack open small bones and carry large bones up into the sky, dropping them on rocks below to break them open.
They keep the environment healthy.
Vultures clear up to 70 percent of all the carrion in their ecosystem. In doing so, they help protect other species (including humans and their livestock), by preventing the spread of disease from these carcasses.