Lappet-faced vulture

The African giant vulture has a wingspan up to 2.80 m (9 ft) wide

Bernard DUPONT

This large bird of prey can easily be distinguished by the distinctive lappets, or fleshy folds of skin, that hang on either side of its neck, which are more pronounced in adults and contribute to its name.

With a wingspan reaching up to 2.9 meters (9.5 feet), the Lappet-faced Vulture is one of the largest vultures in Africa. Its bulky body, powerful beak, and large, strong talons make it a formidable presence on any carcass. The bird’s featherless head and neck, which may appear in shades from pink to reddish-purple, are not just for show; this bare skin is a hygienic adaptation. It prevents feathers from becoming matted with blood and other substances when the vulture feeds on carrion, which would otherwise be difficult to clean and could harbor bacteria.

The Lappet-faced Vulture’s reputation at carcass sites is that of a bully. It dominates over other vulture species, using its size and strength to take charge of the best feeding spots. Its powerful beak is capable of tearing through tough skin, tendons, and ligaments of carcasses, allowing it access to parts of the prey that other scavengers cannot reach. This dominance is not only a display of power but also a critical ecological function, as it ensures the complete breakdown of carcasses.

Diet-wise, the Lappet-faced Vulture is an opportunistic feeder and exhibits a wide range of dietary habits. While they prefer carrion and are often seen at the site of dead animals, they are also known to hunt live prey, including fish, reptiles, and small mammals. Furthermore, they do not shy away from raiding nests for eggs or even newborns, as their diet can occasionally include the likes of flamingo eggs.

Contrary to the common perception of vultures relying on a keen sense of smell to find food, the Lappet-faced Vulture depends on its excellent eyesight to locate meals. It soars at high altitudes, scanning vast stretches of the savannah for signs of a feast. When one is spotted, their descent to the ground is swift and determined.

Distribution

Country
Population est.
Status
Year
Comments
Algeria
2021
Non-Breeding
Angola
2021
Benin
2021
Botswana
2021
Burkina Faso
2021
Burundi
2021
Non-Breeding
Cameroon
2021
Central Af. Rep.
2021
Chad
2021
Côte D’ivoire
2021
DR Congo (Kinshasa)
2021
Djibouti
2021
Egypt
2021
Equatorial Guinea
2021
Non-Breeding
Eritrea
2021
Eswatini
2021
Ethiopia
2021
Gambia
2021
Israel
0
Official estimate
EX
2021
Extinct locally
Jordan
0
Official estimate
EX
2021
Extinct locally
Kenya
2021
Libya
2021
Non-Breeding
Malawi
2021
Mali
2021
Mauritania
2021
Morocco
2021
Non-Breeding
Mozambique
2021
Namibia
2021
Niger
2021
Nigeria
2021
Oman
2021
Rwanda
2021
Saudi Arabia
2021
Senegal
2021
Somalia
2021
South Africa
2021
South Sudan
2021
Sudan
2021
Syria
2021
Possibly Extinct
Tanzania
2021
Togo
2021
Non-Breeding
UAE
2021
Uganda
2021
Yemen
2021
Zambia
2021
Zimbabwe
2021

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Terrestrial / Aquatic

Altricial / Precocial

Polygamous / Monogamous

Dimorphic (size) / Monomorphic

Active: Diurnal / Nocturnal

Social behavior: Solitary / Pack / Herd

Diet: Carnivore / Herbivore / Omnivore / Piscivorous / Insectivore

Migratory: Yes / No

Domesticated: Yes / No

Dangerous: Yes / No