The Lappet-faced Vulture, Africa’s biggest, most assertive avian swashbuckler at decaying carcasses doesn’t receive much birding love and understanding.
By Rex Graham
Africa’s most powerful and aggressive vulture is not a glamour species despite a wingspan of up to 9.5 feet (2.9 m), almost as long as a condors’ and the Himalayan Griffon.
Lappet-faced Vultures rip through tough animal skin. They scavenge on everything from wildebeests to elephants.
Witnessing these top avian scavengers at a carcass is an opportunity to witness a fleeting habitat. The carcass of a large animal represents a huge, sudden input of energy to the ecosystem of a Kenyan savannah.
Lappet-Faced Vulture Menu Items
Efficient predators like Spotted Hyenas avoid expending large amounts of energy in hunting when they find carcasses. The same is true for smaller carnivorous rodents, foxes and other mammals. Many insects participate in the scavenging bonanza. The decline in Lappet-faced Vultures in Africa has led to a rise in Jackals and other dog-like scavengers.
However, the main carcass attraction for birders is a vulture wielding a 4-inch (10 cm) bill from a featherless head and neck swathed with a pirate’s scarf of red fleshy skin. Lappet-faced Vultures evolved from eagles and hawks. They have long intestines, strong stomach acids and don’t use smell to locate carcasses on dry savannahs, arid plains with little grass and few trees.
Guides with Nature’s Wonderland Safaris, a regional guiding services based in Kenya. The company features luxury and budget birding tours, from budget safaris with communal meal preparation and mobile tents, to luxury lodge and luxury tented camping safaris with ice, uniformed waiters and wine on elevate verandas.
I believe that the more we watch, photograph, study and enjoy Lappet-faced Vultures, the better for the species, all birds, all wildlife and all humans.