Cape Vulture

Filed under: Raptors & Bird of Prey,SA birds under serious threat by wind farms |

Gyps coprotheres

The Cape Griffon or Cape Vulture (Gyps coprotheres), also known as Kolbe’s Vulture, is an Old World vulture in the family Accipitridae, which also includes eagles, kites, buzzards and hawks. It is endemic to southern Africa, and is found mainly in South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana and in some parts of northern Namibia. It nests on cliffs and lays one egg per year.

Near-endemic to southern Africa, occurring in patches of Namibia, southern Zimbabwe, Lesotho and north-eastern and south-eastern South Africa, with a localised population in the Western Cape; it is a rare vagrant to Angola. It can occupy a variety of habitat types, although it especially favours subsistence farming communal grazing areas, where there is plenty of livestock to feed on.

This large vulture is dark brown except for the pale wing coverts. The adult is paler than the juvenile, and its underwing coverts can appear almost white at a distance. The average length is about 96–115 cm (38–45 in) with a wingspan of 2.26–2.6 m (7.4–8.5 ft) and a body weight of 7–11 kg (15–24 lb).[2][3] They are on average the largest raptor in Africa, although they are subservient to the powerful Lappet-faced Vulture. After the Himalayan Griffon Vulture and the Cinereous Vulture the Cape vulture is the third largest Old World Vulture. The two prominent bare skin patches at the base of the neck, also found in the White-backed Vulture, are thought to be temperature sensors and used for detecting the presence of thermals.

The species is listed by the IUCN as “Vulnerable”, the major problems it faces being poisoning, disturbance at breeding colonies and powerline electrocution. The current population is estimated at 8,000.

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