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Animal Detail ViewՄանրամասն` նրանց մասին

28.02.2012

Griffon Vulture (Gyps fulvus)


Scientific Classification

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Subphylum: Vertebrata

Class: Aves

Order: Accipitriformes

Family: Accipitridae

Genus: Trigonoceps

Species: Trgonoceps occipitalis

 

Description

The white-headed vulture is a raptor, more precisely an Old World vulture. It is middle-sized, 80 to 85 cm in its length,  has a wide wingspan between 210 and 235 cm and weigh up to 5,3 kilogram. The females are heavier than male birds. Its genus is monotypic, which means that the white-headed vulture is the only species of Trigonoceps. No further species exists. 

Its head is colorful: The powerful, strong and hooked beak for ripping off food from a carcass is pink, but the first part, called cere, is blue. Moreover it has a white crest on its head. The other parts of the head are unfeathered and pale. Due to the fact that several segments of the head are bald, white-headed vultures prevent getting infected while they eat decaying meat. Its eyes have a dark yellow iris. 

The feathers are black-brown at the upside of its body and its wings. In the lower parts these feathers lack and the white downs are visible for example on legs, underneath wings and on the throat.

It has good sight in order to discover its prey from long distances.

Behavior

White-headed vultures are often solitary or form a strong pair bond with one other bird. They have a fixed territory and if there is enough food they will stay there permanently. Normally they avoid  contact to other vultures and only come together on feeding grounds. Fights over food aren't rare. They use thermal processes to fly effortless and often fly in big circles over their territory.

Habitat

The white-headed Vulture is endemic to Africa, southward Sahara. It prefers to live in savannas with open landscapes and less trees. If it is searching for food you can find it in deserts or wooded areas as well. Plateaus and high regions up to 3000 meters can be part of its territory.  

Diet

White-headed vultures eat predominately carrion of dead animals which they find exclusively by sight. It is said that they are often the first animal that arrives at a carcass, but they have to leave the carcasses to larger and more dominant vultures. A strong immune systems supports them when eating stale meat without getting ill. Furthermore they hunt small mammals, reptiles and birds or eat insects for instance grasshoppers or termites.

Vultures never know when they will find their next food. Therefor they have a so called corp – a throat pouch – where they can store food and eat it whenever they want to or bring it to their hatchling safely.

Reproduction

After 5 to 6 years a white-headed vulture is mature. Mating season is between May and August. If it finds a partner, the couple will stay together their hole life. The nest is built out of branches in a high tree. Its diameter can be longer than one meter. The female only lays one egg and both adult birds take care of the incubation. After 50 to 55 days the young vulture hatches out. Its food is regurgitated by its parents. Approximately after 110 days the young bird leaves the nest but furthermore it stays half a year with its parents.

Conservation Status

The species listed in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as Least Concern and listed in Appendix II of the CITES and in Appendix II of the Berne Convention.

Differences between New World Vultures and Old World Vultures

There are two families of vultures: The New World and the Old World Vultures. White-headed vultures belong to the Old World Vultures, but what are the differences?

One aspect is their habit: New world vultures are from North, Central and South America, whereas Old World Vultures live in Africa, Asia and Europe. In contrast to Old World Vultures, the New World ones don't have a voice box and can only hiss. They don't built nests but hide their eggs in holes of high and rocky areas or in cavities of trees. With their horizontal nostrils, which have a space between them, they own a good sense of smell that Old World Vultures don't have. Their feet aren't built for grabbing while their older relatives have powerful feet.

Vultures in cultures

For many people vultures symbolize death and doom, predominately because of its eating habits,  Nevertheless also many cultures admired this bird:

For the old Egyptians the vulture was a symbol for love and motherhood, because they stay in pairs and have a strong bond to their children. Their wide wingspan was a symbol for the ability to protect. The Egyptian Vulture was even used as representative for the goddess Nekhbes and as a hieroglyph which includes words like mother and grandmother. The vulture developed to the symbol of Upper Egypt.

In the Hindu mythology two semi-gods appear in form of two vultures named Jatayu and Sampaati. Their legend is about courage and self-sacrifice. Sampaati loses his own wings saving his brothers life and later Jatayu dies when he tries to rescue Sita, wife of the god Rama.

When sky burial took place in Tibet, vultures ate the human corpses, which were placed on mountaintops.

In the western world mainly the negative image exist. If one sees the importance of vultures for  ecosystem as cleaners and providing doctors, this reputation is actually quite unfair.        

Short Facts

  • When a vulture is upset, its head turns red.
  • Because of its work as a cleaner it prevents diseases, its reputation of symbolizing death is illogical.
  • Thermal winds help them to achieve altitude and to fly a long period of time without flapping with its wings.


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