Monday, 23 March 2009

Vultures: nature's garbage collectors

I realise that vultures do not rate as one of the most popular African bird species. Consider this, whether you like them or not, without them the African plains would be an awfully messy place.

The brown-coloured African White-backed Vulture (Gyps africanus) has a dark brown head and neck with a white ruff at the base. The bill and eyes are black. The rump, back and forewing are white, well visible in flight.

The brown Hooded Vulture (Necrosyrtes monachus) is a small vulture. The facial skin is pink with white-grey down in the hindneck. Distinctive is the slender bill.

The White-headed Vulture (Trigonoceps occipitalis) has a distinctive angular white head, hence the name. The face and the legs are pink. The reddish bill has a blue base. Females have a patch of white in the secondary flight feathers.

The Rüppell’s Vulture (Gyps rueppellii) is similar to the African White-backed Vulture. It is also brown but has a grey head and neck. The face is blue-grey. The bill is ivory-coloured with a touch of pink. The eyes are orange-yellow. On either side of the crop there are blue-grey bare patches. The feather edges are creamy white. In flight there are three white bars visible on the underwing.

The Lappet-faced Vulture (Torgos tracheliotus) is the largest African vulture with very distinctive pink-coloured bare skin on the head and the neck. The brownish bill is massive. Flank feathers are white.

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