Welcome to the wonderful world of vultures. Kid’s Corner shares with you amazing information about our vultures, the coolest, little known facts about them, how they live, fly and the funny side of their characters.
For those of you who are keen to learn about the different parts of a vulture, we have a series of labelled photos for you, to keep it interesting. This is of course not every part of a vulture, but gives you a good idea of the different flight feathers etc.
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1. Bird’s Eye View
The highest bird flight ever recorded was a Ruppell’s Vulture, which crashed with an airplane at 37 000feet (11 278m) over the Ivory Coast in 1973, this is higher than Mount Everest. A lack of oxygen would kill most other birds.
Scientific studies showed that unique features in their haemoglobin and cardio vascular adaptions allow this.
2. Guzzle Guts
Mention Africa and everyone thinks of lion, elephant and rhino and always assumes that they would be our biggest eaters. Mammalian carnivores eat about 36% of the total number of animals killed; the rest approximately 70% is eaten by vultures. [http://www.bbc.co.uk/nature/25961517]
3. Countries not communities
Vultures fly over massive distances; this territory is referred to as their range. Tagged vultures released in South Africa have been monitored as far afield as Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Zambia.
4. Power line Hopscotch
Cape Vultures have been tracked following the power lines and pylons to cover the single straightest distance of 1000km. This is incredibly dangerous as vultures break wings on power lines and risk electrocution.
5. Old World and New World Vultures
Who knew? Old World vultures are found in Asia, Africa and Europe. New World vultures are found in the Americas. They are not really related, more grouped together for their scavenging habits.
Vultures soar beautifully on thermals, but actually don’t fly well at all. They are just too heavy; nature being as wonderful as it is allows them to use thermals to soar over distances of up to 150km.
2. Eye Spy
Vultures rely on their sight for all sorts of details from finding food sources to recognising the fact that other vultures may have found a thermal.
3. Waste Disposal
Vultures are the only true scavengers in Africa; they NEVER hunt their own food.
They only lay one egg every year.
5. Lunch Break
A vulture can eat up to one kg of meat in a sitting (that is 10% of their bodyweight)
6. Necessity is the mother of Invention
Eqyptian vultures eat ostrich eggs and actually use rocks or sticks to break their thick shells.
7. Fast Food or Sit Down
Vulture restaurants have been set up to create safe feeding sites to help save our vultures. Tourists find them a fantastic opportunity to take photos and sit and enjoy these amazing funny birds.
8. The African White-backed Vulture
Is the most common scavenger of the Masai Mara. They are very sociable and feed in very large groups numbering in the hundreds.
9. Ruppell’s vulture
They can be identified by their white streaked feathers and yellow beak.
10. Lappet-faced vultures
Are one of the biggest vultures, they get their name from their bald, red heads. They travel in pairs and are dominant over all other vultures
11. White headed-vulture
Is one of the rarest vultures of the Masai Mara. Smaller than the Lappet-faced these red beaked, pale faced birds are shy and solitary.
12. Hooded vultures
One of the smallest vultures and pick from the edge of the carcass. Their diet is more varied than the other vultures, sometimes eating the dung of other animals or feeding at garbage sites.
13. Muti and Magic
The vulture is a powerful symbol of wisdom and far sight, no doubt linked to their extraordinary sight. Sangomas have long revered them and owning a vulture head is said to bestow their strengths on the wearer. Fortunately for vultures, people are better educated and realise the damage caused to wild vulture populations by killing them for muti.
1. Spaghetti legs
Unlike the Martial Eagle, vulture’s legs are not very strong, they also have blunter talons.
2. Batty Beaks
A vulture’s beak or bill is strong for tearing meat off a carcass. If a carcass is too stiff for them to open, then they cleverly wait for another predator to do all the hard work and then they enjoy eating too.
3. Livestock are safe
Vultures do not kill healthy livestock; they would only prey on sick or dying animals, especially if food has been scarce.
4. Food for thought
Vultures feed their babies by feeding well at a carcass and then regurgitating food from their crop for their babies when they are back at the nest.
5. Safety first
Turkey vultures urinate on their legs and feet to cool off on hot days. Their urine also helps to kill bacteria and parasites that they may have picked up when feeding.
6. Wide wings
The Andean condor has the largest wingspan of any vulture measuring 3 to 3.4 metres with wings extended.
7. Slightly smaller
The crow sized hooded vulture (Found in sub Saharan Africa), is the smallest vulture with a wingspan of only 1.5 metres.
8. Dead weight
When threatened, vultures vomit. This is a defence mechanism against predators, but also lightens their body weight for a quick getaway.
Vultures don’t sing, they mostly grunt, hiss and scold each other.
10. Disease Doctor to Detective
Scientists are considering using vultures to help find bodies from crimes. Studying how a vulture finds a body and how quickly it can consume the body is useful for forensic analysis.