IUCN threat status:

Endangered (EN)

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Biology

White-backed vultures are scavengers, feeding on the soft muscle, organ tissue and bone fragments of large carcasses (2). With their large, broad wings they can soar and circle for hours as they search for carrion (6), sometimes following ungulates as they undertake their regular migrations (5). Their excellent eyesight enables them to spot food from high in the air, and they also keep an eye on other vultures, quickly following if they see another making a sudden descent (6). Up to 200 white-backed vultures can gather at a carcass; an enormous elephant carcass may even attract a thousand (2). With so many birds trying to feed, fights are inevitable (4). Accompanied with grunts and goose-like hisses and cackles (4), the scrum of vultures can be seen inserting their long, bare necks under the skin of the carcass or crawling into the ribcage as they feed on the dead remains (2). After gorging themselves, the vultures may bathe together with other species at a favourite site, or rest with their wings spread and backs to the sun (4). White-backed vultures breed at the start of the dry season, nesting in loose colonies of 2 to 13 birds. The nest is a platform of sticks, lined with grass and green leaves, situated in the crown or fork of a large tree. Generally a single egg is laid, which is incubated for 56 days. The pale grey chick is fed by both parents until they fledge at 120 to 130 days of age (2).

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Source: ARKive

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