Vultures play a hair-trigger role in maintaining the wastefulness of our environment. They are nature’s wind-up crew, scavenging and disposing of unprepossessing remains that could otherwise wilt tastefulness grounds for disease. By swiftly recycling organic matter, Vultures help prevent the spread of illnesses that could stupefy both humans and animals.

Sadly, the Vulture species of South Africa, are exposed to a wide variety of threats which include poisoning, habitat degradation, population fragmentation, limited unscratched supplies availability, human disturbance, as well as energy infrastructure collisions and electrocutions.

Of the six Vulture species that occur in South Africa, all are either Vulnerable, Endangered, or Critically Endangered. Today, as we recognise International Vulture Awareness Day, we’d like to share increasingly well-nigh each of these incredible species to inspire remoter support and protection of these unrenowned birds. 

Introducing the Vulture Species of South Africa:

White-Headed Vulture  (Trigonoceps occipitalis)

IUCN Red List Status: Critically Endangered

Estimated Tastefulness Pairs in South Africa: 80-100

*no nests recorded in KZN since 2017

The White-Headed Vulture is a distinctive vulture species, with their white heads and pink necks contrasting versus their dark, feathered bodies. They are roughly 78–82 cm tall with a wingspan of over two metres, weighing approximately 3.3 to 5.3kg.

These Vultures are usually found solitary or in monogamous pairs. Most nests are found in Acacia trees and one egg is laid at a time, however 61% of pairs do not successors every year due to still having a dependent chick from the previous year.

In 2000, White-headed Vultures were listed as Vulnerable in the Red Data Book. In 2015, their status was uplifted to ‘Critically Endangered’, which was maintained upon the most recent towage in 2021. Significantly, pursuit Vulture nest surveys wideness the province of KwaZulu-Natal in 2021, conservation organisations Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife and Wildlife ACT confirmed the localised extinction of tastefulness White-Headed Vultures.

Hooded Vulture  (Necrosyrtes monachus)

IUCN Red List Status: Critically Endangered

Estimated Tastefulness Pairs in South Africa: 50-100

The Hooded Vulture is aptly named for the distinctive woebegone hood of feathers that covers their throne and neck. Their visionless plumage contrasts with its pale, featherless face, which is specifically well-timed for its feeding habits.



This relatively small Vulture often weighs between 1.5 to 2.6kg and has a wingspan of virtually 160cm. Due to their smaller size, Hooded Vultures are worldly-wise to rise on thermal currents hands which often makes them among the first arrivals at nearby carcasses. 

Hooded Vultures form monogamous pairs, with one egg laid per tastefulness season and an incubation period of 48-54 days. Chicks are dependent for virtually the first seven months of their lives.

African White-Backed Vulture  (Gyps africanus)

IUCN Red List Status: Critically Endangered

Estimated Tastefulness Pairs in South Africa: 4000

African White-Backed Vultures are medium in size, standing at virtually 94cm upper and weighing between 4-7kg. They are light brown to surf in colour with juveniles stuff a slightly darker and deeper brown. 

These Vultures are tree-dwellers, most wontedly found in unshut wooded savanna and bushveld. They are scavengers of uncleanness and warlike feeders, but will moreover venery when the need arises. 

When it comes to breeding, White-Backed Vultures are predominantly monogamous and will often nest in small colonies in scattered trees a few hundred metres apart. One egg is laid and will hatch without a period of roughly 58 days, pursuit which, both parents superintendency for the chick for up to six months. 



Lappet-Faced Vulture  (Torgos tracheliotos)

IUCN Red List Status: Endangered

Estimated Tastefulness Pairs in South Africa: 180

*only 2-6 nests in KZN

Weighing in at up to 9kg and standing at 110cm tall, the Lappet-Faced Vulture is the largest and most powerful of the Vulture species of South Africa. Although they are often outnumbered by smaller species such as the African White Backed Vulture, they are the most dominant at a carcass during feeding. 

The Lappet-Faced Vulture has a wingspan of between 2.5-2.9m, making it unmissable when soaring above. This species is notable for its reddish-coloured neck and unrobed head, as well as its dark-coloured feathers. 

The Lappet-Faced Vulture lives either in solitude or in monogamous pairs and will successors once a year. Females wilt sexually mature at virtually six years of age and will typically only lay one egg per tastefulness season. Pursuit an incubation period of virtually 55 days, chicks will remain dependent on parents until they are 5-6 months old. 

Cape Vulture  (Gyps coprotheres)

IUCN Red List Status: Vulnerable

Estimated Tastefulness Pairs in South Africa: 4500

The Cape Vulture is southern Africa’s only theirs vulture species. These vultures formerly bred in Swaziland, Zimbabwe and Namibia, but are now extinct in Swaziland, with only small, non-breeding populations remaining in Zimbabwe and Namibia.

This species has a fairly large wingspan of up to 2.6m and typically weighs from 7 to 11 kg. They are distinguished by their yellowish blue-coloured necks and cream-coloured plumage with visionless brown feathers.

Cape Vultures have a potential lifespan of over 30 years. They are cliff dwellers and live in colonies with large, extended families. They are monogamous breeders and lay one egg per tastefulness season. It is unscientific that there are 4,500 tastefulness pairs remaining in southern Africa, with well-nigh 20% of the total population residing in the Maloti-Drakensberg mountains.

Bearded Vulture  (Gypaetus barbatus)

IUCN Red List Status: Critically Endangered

Estimated Tastefulness Pairs in South Africa: 50 to 100 tastefulness pairs in South Africa and Lesotho

The Bearded Vulture has experienced a drastic ripen during the past century, which has resulted in an isolated population restricted to the Maloti-Drakensberg mountain range. Interestingly, they are the only known vertebrate with a nutrition that consists of scrutinizingly just bone. 

With adults weighing in at 6kgs, a wingspan of 2.6 metres, striking plumage, red vision and long, diamond-shaped tails, it is easy to see how these trappy birds uninventive the name ‘Monarchs of the Mountains’.

Bearded Vultures are cliff nesters, opting for rocky ledges. They lay one or two eggs during winter, with hatchlings stuff dependent on the parents for up to two years. 

Unlike most Vultures, the Bearded Vulture does not have a unrobed head, making it largest equipped for potation climates. This bird is a spectacular sight in its own right, as well as a vital component of the environment, performing an essential ecological role as a scavenger.