Photo by Art Wolfe
Size: 40 to 45 inches long, with a wingspan of 9 feet. The Lappet-faced is one of the largest vultures, and it powerful enough to fend off a jackal!
Diet/Feeding: One of the larger and more dominant vultures in their area, the lappet-faced is usually one of the first at a carcass. Smaller scavengers often rely on this larger, stronger vulture to tear through the hide of a fresh carcass. In times of great need, this vulture can use its powerful beak to catch live prey. It is often seen doing this in the summer months.
Range/Habitat: The lappet-faced vulture is found in southern Africa, up the eastern coast, and in the dry northern regions of the continent. These vultures can range long distances from their nesting site, in search of food.
Behavior: Lappet-faced vultures live in small family groups. They are not as social as other, smaller species of vultures, and has earned the title of "the solitary vulture."
Life Cycle: Young leave the nest after about 4 months, but continue to remain dependent on their parents for quite some time. These vultures live about 40 years.
Breeding: Breeding may only occur once every to years for this vulture species. Lappet-faced pairs build a large platform-style nest of sticks in the top of a small thorn tree. After lining it with grass and other soft objects, the female lays a solitary egg. If a predator makes its way through the thorny obstacles to the nest, the baby can do a very convincing job of feigning death.
Status: Lappet-Faced Vulture populations throughout southern Africa have suffered as a result of poisoning by agriculturalists. They are shot and persecuted because they are thought to be unhygenic birds. They have also been known to fall victim to electrocution bey high-voltage towers. Also, with the elimination of hyenas in many areas, vultures are unable to gather the bone fragments that these animals once left behind. Such calcium-rich tidbits are highly important to the strength and health of vulture chicks.
Folklore, Misc. Information: Many non-native plants are found in the Negev Desert in Israel. These are thought to have originated from seeds brought over on the feet of migrating vultures.
The Hausas, an African tribe developed a tale based on this great vulture. According to the legend, there was an enormous bird called the Jipillima, that feasted on humans, but whose droppings had the ability to cure anything. One day, the king's son became ill because an evil witch had forced magic thorns into his body. A young woman in love with the prince went out in search of a cure for him. Coming across a tree full of Jipillimas, she heard them talking of the sick man, after complaining of their hunger--they had only eaten 99 men that day! She heard them telling that the only way the man could be healed was if he were fed their droppings. So the girl hastily gathered up some droppings, took them back to the prince, and fed them to him. He vomited up the painful thorns, and was healed. The girl was rewarded by marrying the prince.
A Lappet-Faced Vulture in many languages:
English: Lappet-faced vulture, African eared vulture
Other Websites on Lappet-Faced Vultures: