Rüppell's vulture or Rüppell's griffon vulture (
Gyps rueppelli) is a
large vulture that occurs throughout the
Sahel region of central
Africa. The current population of 30,000 is decreasing due to loss of
habitat, incidental poisoning, and other factors. Known also as
Rüppell's griffon, Rueppell's griffon, Rüppell's griffin vulture,
Rueppell's vulture and other variants, it is not to be confused with a
different species, the griffon vulture (
Gyps fulvus). Rüppell's
vulture is named in honor of Eduard Rüppell, a 19th-century German
explorer, collector, and zoologist.
Rüppell's vulture is
considered to be the highest-flying bird, with confirmed evidence of a
flight at an altitude of 11,300 metres (37,100 ft) above sea
6 See also
8 External links
Their range extends through the
Sahel region of Africa where they can
be found in grasslands, mountains, and woodlands. Once considered
common in these habitats, the Rüppell's vultures are experiencing
steep declines, especially in the Western portion of their range.
They are relatively slow birds, cruising at 35 kilometres per hour
(22 mph), but fly for 6–7 hours every day and will fly as far
as 150 kilometres (93 mi) from a nest site to find food.
Head of an adult
These are large vultures, noticeably outsizing the closely related
white-backed vulture, with which they often occur in the wild. Adults
are 85 to 103 cm (33 to 41 in) long, with a wingspan
of 2.26 to 2.6 metres (7.4 to 8.5 ft), and a weight that ranges
from 6.4 to 9 kg (14 to 20 lb). Both genders look
alike: mottled brown or black overall with a whitish-brown underbelly
and thin, dirty-white fluff covering the head and neck. The base of
the neck has a white collar, the eye is yellow or amber, the crop
patch deep brown. The head does not have feathers. This is an
adaptation that occurred because of the Rüppell vulture's tendency to
stick its head inside of its prey when eating. Without the adaptation,
feeding would become extremely messy. Silent as a rule, they
become vocal at their nest and when at a carcass, squealing a great
deal. Rüppell's vultures commonly fly at altitudes as high as 6,000
metres (20,000 ft). The birds have a specialized
variant of the hemoglobin alphaD subunit; this protein has a great
affinity for oxygen, which allows the species to absorb oxygen
efficiently despite the low partial pressure in the upper
Rüppell's vulture was confirmed to have been
ingested by a jet engine of an airplane flying over Abidjan, Ivory
Coast on November 29, 1973 at an altitude of 11,300 m
(37,000 ft). During August 2010 a
Rüppell's vulture escaped a
bird of prey site in Scotland, prompting warnings to pilots in the
area to watch carefully due to the danger of collision.
G. r. rueppellii
Nairobi National Park, Kenya
At a blue wildebeest carcass in a river
G. r. erlangeri in flight
Rüppell's vultures are very social, roosting, nesting, and gathering
to feed in large flocks.
Rüppell's vultures have several adaptations to their diet and are
specialized feeders even among the Old World vultures of Africa. They
have an especially powerful build and, after the most attractive soft
parts of a carcass have been consumed, they will continue with the
hide, and even the bones, gorging themselves until they can barely
fly. They have backward-pointing spikes on the tongue to help remove
meat from bone. Despite their size, power and adaptations, they are
not the most dominant vulture in their range, which is considered to
be the even larger lappet-faced vulture.
This species of vulture is considered to be monogamous, forming
lifelong breeding pairs. After courtship the pair will work together
to build a nest using sticks, grass, and leaves that they have
gathered or stolen from other nests. Rüppell's vultures build
these nests on cliffs, and in key breeding areas they are known to
nest in large colonies containing hundreds of breeding pairs. Both
parents share in incubation of their egg over a period of 55 days.
Once the chick hatches, both parents will feed and tend to it for
about 150 days when it fledges. Young remain dependent on their
parents after fledging, not reaching independence until the next
breeding season. During this time they learn how to find and compete
Since first being assessed by the International Union for Conservation
of Nature during 1988, populations of
Rüppell's vulture have
decreased. The species has been listed with an
IUCN Red List
IUCN Red List status of
"near threatened" since 2007 and the IUCN predicts that populations of
the species will continue to decrease. From 2012 to 2014 the
Rüppell's vulture was listed as Endangered, however, in 2015 the
species was reassessed and uplisted to Critically Endangered
Rüppell's vulture is currently listed as an Appendix II species
under CITES, which regulates the international trade of animals and
plants. Under this designation, the
Rüppell's vulture is defined
as not being immediately at risk of extinction, however current
population could become threatened without careful regulation of
Rüppell's vulture has been occurring as a vagrant in
Spain and Portugal, with annual records since 1997, mainly in the
Cadiz / Straits of Gibraltar area, but also further north.
Rüppell's vulture populations are experiencing declining populations
throughout their entire range. These declines can be attributed to
loss of habitat related to human-related land use, poisoning, human
use for medicine or meat, loss of nesting sites, and declining
availability of food sources. Poisoning is currently thought to be
the most serious threat to all vulture populations in Africa, although
they are not usually the intended target. In events where predators
such as lions or hyenas have killed livestock, carbofuran poisons have
been placed into carcasses as retaliation against the predators.
Unfortunately, vultures utilize carrion as their main food source and
one carcass has the potential to attract hundreds of birds to feed
because this species identifies food by sight. One evaluation of 10
poisoning events found that each event caused the death of 37 to 600
Killing of Rüppell's vultures for use in medicine has also greatly
contributed to the rapid population decline. In many African cultures,
vultures are used for medicine and magic related to superstitions that
they are clairvoyant and can be used to increase a child's
intelligence. Establishing protected wildlife areas is thought to
be an effective route to protect the
Rüppell's vulture from
Rüppell's vulture breed and nests in cliffs in
northern and southern Kenya, as well as Tanzania. These breeding and
nesting grounds amass huge numbers of Rüppell's vultures which will
raise young and forage in the surrounding area. Considering that
the detection rate of Rüppell's vultures was found to be lower in
protected areas than outside of them, extending protection to these
key breeding sites could help support their population.
The white-backed vulture, which is slightly smaller and has a shorter
IUCN Red List
IUCN Red List 2015.
Bird Life Species Factsheet — Rueppell's
Bird Life International website.
Bird Life International.
2010. Archived from the original on 2010-06-10. Retrieved 2010-06-10.
Identification 85-97 cm. Medium-sized vulture.
^ Beolens, Bo; Watkins, Michael (2003). Whose Bird? Men and Women
Commemorated in the Common Names of Birds. London: Christopher Helm.
^ a b Laybourne, Roxie C. (December 1974). "Collision between a
Vulture and an Aircraft at an Altitude of 37,000 Feet" (PDF). The
Wilson Bulletin. Wilson Ornithological Society. 86 (4): 461–462.
ISSN 0043-5643. JSTOR 4160546. OCLC 46381512.
Gyps rueppelli) - BirdLife species factsheet".
www.birdlife.org. Retrieved 2016-02-29.
^ a b "Birdlife.org". Birdlife.org. Retrieved 2011-05-31.
^ Field Guide to the Birds of East Africa: Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda,
Rwanda, Burundi by Stevenson & Fanshawe. Elsevier Science (2001),
^ Sinclair, Ian; Phil Hockey (2005). Sasol: The Larger Illustrated
Guide to Birds of Southern Africa. Illustrated by Norman Arlott and
Peter Hayman (2nd ed.). Cape Town: Struik Publishers.
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^ Raptors of the World by Ferguson-Lees, Christie, Franklin, Mead
& Burton. Houghton Mifflin (2001), ISBN 0-618-12762-3
^ "Ruppell's griffon vulture". Smithsonian's National Zoo. Retrieved
^ Weber, RE; Hiebl, I; Braunitzer, G. (April 1988). "High altitude and
hemoglobin function in the vultures
Gyps rueppellii and Aegypius
monachus". Biological Chemistry Hoppe-Seyler. De Gruyter. 369 (4):
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^ Haines, Lester (2010-08-18). "Giant vulture menaces Scottish skies".
TheRegister.co.uk. Retrieved 2011-05-31.
^ "Ruppell's Griffon
Vulture Facts - National Zoo".
nationalzoo.si.edu. Retrieved 2016-02-29.
^ "Rueppell's griffon videos, photos and facts -
ARKive. Retrieved 2016-02-29.
IUCN Red List
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species Version
International Union for Conservation of Nature
International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural
Resources. 2010. Archived from the original on 2010-06-09. Retrieved
2010-06-09. This long-lived vulture has experienced a moderately rapid
reduction in its global population which is likely to continue. For
these reasons it is listed as Near Threatened.
^ a b "
Gyps rueppelli (Rueppell's Griffon, Rüppell's Griffon Vulture,
Ruppell's Vulture, Rüppell's Vulture)". www.iucnredlist.org.
CITES Appendices CITES". cites.org. Retrieved
^ Gutiérrez, Ricard (2003) Occurrence of Rüppell's Griffon Vulture
Dutch Birding 2595): 289-303
^ Thiollay, Jean-Marc (2006-04-01). "The decline of raptors in West
Africa: long-term assessment and the role of protected areas". Ibis.
148 (2): 240–254. doi:10.1111/j.1474-919X.2006.00531.x.
^ Virani, Munir Z.; Kendall, Corinne; Njoroge, Peter; Thomsett, Simon
(2011-02-01). "Major declines in the abundance of vultures and other
scavenging raptors in and around the Masai Mara ecosystem, Kenya".
Biological Conservation. 144 (2): 746–752.
^ a b c Ogada, Darcy L. (2014-08-01). "The power of poison: pesticide
poisoning of Africa's wildlife". Annals of the New York Academy of
Sciences. 1322 (1): 1–20. doi:10.1111/nyas.12405.
ISSN 1749-6632. PMID 24716788.
^ Ogada, Darcy; Shaw, Phil; Beyers, Rene L.; Buij, Ralph; Murn,
Campbell; Thiollay, Jean Marc; Beale, Colin M.; Holdo, Ricardo M.;
Pomeroy, Derek (2015-06-01). "Another Continental
Africa's Vultures Collapsing toward Extinction". Conservation Letters.
9: 89–97. doi:10.1111/conl.12182. ISSN 1755-263X.
^ Virani, Munir Z.; Monadjem, Ara; Thomsett, Simon; Kendall, Corinne
(2012-09-01). "Seasonal variation in breeding Rüppell's Vultures Gyps
rueppellii at Kwenia, southern Kenya and implications for
Bird Conservation International. 22 (03): 260–269.
doi:10.1017/S0959270911000505. ISSN 1474-0001.
BirdLife International (2012). "
IUCN Red List
IUCN Red List of
Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for
Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013.
BirdLife International (2007a): 2006–2007 Red List status changes.
Retrieved 26 August 2007.
BirdLife International (2007b): Rüppell's
Vulture - BirdLife Species
Factsheet. Retrieved 26 August 2007.
Rüppell's vulture media". Internet
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Fauna Europaea: 96701