|Vulture Quick Facts
Here are some quick facts about vultures. How many did you already know?
|Who’s who at the carcass?
By Corinne Kendall, The Vulture Research Project, The Peregrine Fund
East Africa has one of the most diverse scavenging communities of any ecosystem due to the high availability of carcasses or dead animals. Believe it or not, it is actually scavengers – not predators – that eat the majority of meat available in the Mara-Serengeti ecosystem (up to 70% of all carrion). By consuming dead animals, scavengers play a key role in the environment by preventing disease outbreaks and recycling nutrients. Below you will find descriptions of some of the important scavengers of East Africa.
|African white-backed vulture
Is the most common scavenger in Masai Mara. The pirannas of the savannas, these vultures can eat over 1 kg (2 lbs) of meat in just two minutes and feed in huge groups, sometimes of over 100 individuals.
Can be identified by their white streaked feathers and yellow beak. Unlike the other vultures that nest in trees, these birds hatch their chicks in tall cliffs far outside Masai Mara’s borders.
Is one of the biggest vultures and are named for their bald, red heads. These vultures tend to travel in pairs and are dominant over all the other vultures.
| White-headed vulture
Is one of the rarest vultures in Masai Mara, so consider yourself lucky if you see these red-beaked, pale-faced birds. Not quite as large as the Lappet-faced vultures, these birds are known for their shy and solitary nature.
Is one of the smallest vultures and tends to pick around the edge of the carcass. They have a slightly more varied diet than the other vultures, sometimes eating the dung of other animals or feeding at garbage dumps.
| Black-backed jackal
Is a crafty canine, usually travelling in small groups or pairs. What jackals lack in size, they make up for in speed and cunning and they will often rush into a carcass, steal a piece of meat, and run off with it.
| Spotted hyena
Is know for its laugh, but actually makes a variety of noises, including a deep howl, which you might hear during the night when these carnivores are hunting. With some of the greatest jaw strength of any animal, these mammals are able to chew through even the toughest bones, making them formidable scavengers.
| Other scavengers
Although less commonly seen at large carcasses, lots of other animals scavenge, especially Bateleur, Tawny eagles, White-napped ravens, Marabou storks, and even feral dogs.
|Did you know?
Globally vultures are the most endangered group of birds. In Masai Mara, vultures have declined by almost 50% mainly due to poisoning (people put poison on carcasses to kill predators, who have eaten their livestock; unfortunately these poisoning events have killed many vultures). – Vultures have to travel huge distances to find food and can travel over 150 km (100 mi) in a day at speeds greater than 100 km/hr (60 mph). – When you get to a carcass with a lot of animals around, it is difficult to know who found it first. While you might think the vultures are stealing a tasty meal from the predators, it often works the other way around. Because of their high flight, eagles and vultures usually find carcasses first and are then followed in by mammalian scavengers. In fact, vultures get very little of their diet from predator kills and are mainly feeding off animals that have died of disease or hunger.