Critically endangered: Rüppell’s Vulture and White-Backed Vulture in Kenya


Critically Endangered (CR) vultures, Rüppells Vulture and White-Backed Vulture feeding on cow that has been killed by lions in Lumo conservancy Kenya in 2021. As they feed they make considerable noise, squealing.

This article shows how to identify these species and discusses reasons behing re, even though it is not always easy as their coloring changes with age.

Magnificent sight in African savannas that has sadly become increasingly rare. These vultures have gathered here in Lumo conservancy, Taita, Kenya.

Rüppell’s Vulture (Gyps rueppelli)

Larger species is Rüppells Vulture (Gyps rueppelli), with beautiful white decorations in the feathers and white collar.

Rüppells vulture (Gyps rueppelli) standing on a cow. Wingspan of this species is over two meters 226-255.

There are no feathers on the head or the neck. This allows birds to stick their heads inside carcasses. There was actually one fully in on this carcass.

Rüppell’s vulture is a species that has flown in the altitude of 11300m. Individual died as it crashed with aeroplane. This is highest altitude where bird has ever been proven to be.

Rüppell’s vulture on flight

Rüppell’s vulture weighs 6.4-9 kg. Wingspan is 226-255.

Rüppell’s Vulture from behind (on the left). Others are White-Backed Vultures.

White-Backed Vulture (Gyps africanus)

White-Backed Vulture is ligher brown and more even in coloring. It weighs 4.2-7.2 kilograms and wingspan is 192-225 cm.

White-Backed Vulture (Gyps africanus) is smaller than Rüppells Vulture and may avoid confrontation with larger species.
White-Backed Vulture from the front with nice light brown coloring.
White-Backed Vulture on flight, its wingspan may also exceed two meters
How to separate these two species? Here in the front is White-Backed Vulture and on the behind Rüppell’s Vulture. Coloring is different, with White-Backed being lighter brown. Rüppell’s is larger and sturdier.

Reasons for decrease of vultures

  • Loss of trees used for resting and nesting. Vultures need large trees (about 1m wide at breast height) in the places where they are not disturbed. These trees are rare in Africa.
These are trees in Taita Sanctuary where vultures used to sleep in 2018 and 2019. Now they have moved. These trees have died as they cant survive this treatment by vultures. These trees were only ones in the area large enough for vultures.
  • Pesticides and poisoning – as vultures are top carnivores – what ever their prey has been feeding on ends up in vultures and accumulates to their bodies causing serious consequences including death. These are heavy metals from pesticides, medicines used for cattle and direct poisons. Vultures have been poisoned accidentally and non-accidentally.
  • Loss of habitat, as ever increasing human population requires more and more land. Habitat suitable for vultures decrease all over Africa.
Categories:All posts, SavannasTags: , , , , , , , ,

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