White-headed vulture

They’re known as ‘old world vultures’ endemic to Africa and the first ones to get a whiff of corpses

Bernard DUPONT

A remarkable bird of prey that is characterized by its distinctive white head and neck, which starkly contrasts with its dark body. This bird is found across the savannas and grasslands of sub-Saharan Africa, where it plays a vital role as a scavenger, cleaning up carcasses and thus contributing to the health of the ecosystem.

One of the more peculiar and less-known facts about the White-headed Vulture is its ability to blush. The skin on their heads is suffused with blood vessels, which can fill up with blood when the bird is excited or agitated, causing a noticeable change in coloration. This physiological reaction is not only a fascinating aspect of their biology but also serves as a visual cue to other vultures.

The White-headed Vulture is a bit of an outlier in its family due to its hunting habits. While they are scavengers, like other vultures, they are also known to be more active hunters. They have the strength and agility to catch and kill small prey, such as birds, reptiles, and mammals, which they do more frequently compared to other African vulture species. This versatility in feeding behavior ensures that they can sustain themselves even when carrion is not readily available.

When it comes to feeding frenzies at carcasses, the White-headed Vulture often arrives later than other species. However, due to its size and strength, it can dominate the feeding site, pushing other vultures aside to get to the food. This behavior has earned it a reputation as one of the more assertive vultures at a carcass.

The species shows a particular preference for nesting in Baobab trees, which provide a sturdy base for their large nests and a vantage point to survey their territory. The female typically lays one egg, which both parents incubate and care for. The choice of the Baobab tree is not just for the nest’s security; these trees are an integral part of the African savanna ecosystem, and their health is an indicator of the health of the vulture population.

Distribution

Country
Population est.
Status
Year
Comments
Angola
2021
Non-Breeding
Benin
2021
Botswana
2021
Burkina Faso
2021
Burundi
2021
Cameroon
2021
Central Af. Rep.
2021
Chad
2021
Côte D’ivoire
2021
DR Congo (Kinshasa)
2021
Djibouti
2021
Eritrea
2021
Eswatini
2021
Presence Uncertain
Ethiopia
2021
Gabon
2021
Non-Breeding
Gambia
2021
Ghana
2021
Guinea-Bissau
2021
Guinea
2021
Kenya
2021
Malawi
2021
Mali
2021
Mauritania
2021
Mozambique
2021
Namibia
2021
Niger
2021
Nigeria
2021
Presence Uncertain
Rwanda
2021
Senegal
2021
Somalia
2021
South Africa
2021
South Sudan
2021
Sudan
2021
Tanzania
2021
Togo
2021
Uganda
2021
Zambia
2021
Zimbabwe
2021

Anything we've missed?

Help us improve this page by suggesting edits. Glory never dies!

Suggest an edit

Get to know me

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