Vultures | Botswana Wildlife Guide

Vultures in the Okavango. Michael Poliza

Vultures in Botswana

There are eight species of vulture in Africa of which five are found in Botswana namely hooded, white-backed, lappet-faced, white headed and cape griffon. Very rare sightings of the egyptian vulture have been recorded. Vultures are often the first to arrive at a carcass after a kill or the first to pick up a dead animal. One of the defining images of Africa is that of vultures sitting in trees waiting for a predator to finish feeding.

It is not uncommon to see a number of species of vultures at a carcass at the same time as there is little completion between them due to them feeding on different parts of the carcass. The beaks of each species indicate what they prefer feeding on. For example the small hooked beak of the Hooded Vulture is ideal for small crevasses to pick out titbits, whereas the large beak of the lappet-faced allows it to feed on tougher, larger pieces.

Vulture cannot fly for long periods but they can soar for hours on thermals, and this is the reason why they only take flight when the day heats up. Vultures are predominantly scavengers but they have been known to kill their own food, with the lappet-faced often killing rodents and hares. Hooded vultures are known to feed on insects and I have personally watched them feeding on beetles at dung heaps. Vultures were once severely persecuted when it was still mistakenly believed that they killed domestic livestock. Poisoned meat was set out which killed the vultures after they fed on
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