top of page

NOTICE: This feature is a work-in-progress. If you encounter any issues, please e-mail us at

Cape Vulture

Gyps coprotheres


1 - 1.2m

2.3 - 2.6m

7 - 11kg

10 - 15 yrs





The Cape vulture (Gyps coprotheres) is an Old World vulture in the family Accipitridae, named for its residence in the capes of South Africa. It is sometimes known as the Cape griffon or Kolbe’s vulture – after the German explorer Peter Kolbe, who first described the plants and wildlife surrounding the Cape of Good Hope. It is considered the third largest of the Old World vultures.





It is quite similar in appearance to the white-backed vulture, although lighter in colouration and noticeably larger. Its head and neck are mostly bald with a pale neck ruff and light, creamy-buff feathers elsewhere; from a distance, it can appear to look all-white, although the tail and flight feathers are a darker brown.

What Does it Look Like?


What Does it Sound Like?


Not much is known about the specific vocalisations of the Cape vulture, although it can be assumed to be similar to other Old World vultures. Its calls are mostly guttural grunts or hisses which are believed to be used primarily for hunting behaviours, such as laying claim to a particular carcass or when identifying a threat.


Just like other vultures, it has specialised adaptations for feeding on carrion – the decaying remains of dead animals – earning it a necessary place at the end of the food chain. The Cape vulture in particular seems to target larger carcasses and can strip it clean of flesh, muscle, organs and even fragments of bone in a matter of minutes.

What Does it Eat?


Where Does it Nest?


It takes advantage of the cape geography by selecting a ledge by a steep cliff face on or around the mountainous regions. The nest is generally found at a height of 150-200m, but can be much higher. Exact breeding habits are not known, but like similar vultures only one egg is laid which may be incubated for as long as 2 months.


Its range comprises South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho and Mozambique. Some breeding populations used to reside in Zimbabwe, Namibia and Eswatini but these are now considered locally extinct (although individuals may still be seen). It lives in the rocky, mountainous areas of the capes, as well as grasslands, lightly wooded areas and pastures.

Where Does it Live?


What is its Status?


Estimates place the population at approximately 10,000 mature individuals. It was once considered Endangered, but this was downgraded as the population decline stabilised. However, numbers are still decreasing and at least 16 specific threats have been identified, such as contamination of the food chain with poison and powerline/turbine collisions.

Image credit:

Disclaimer: Whilst we have worked to ensure the content on this page is accurate, any information included herein has been provided for entertainment purposes only and should not be used as a factual reference, including for conservational, biological, veterinary or other scientific uses, as it may not reflect the most up to date research or includes information that is unverified (or, where data is insufficient, has been based on assumptions of wild behaviors.) Species information has been compiled from a range of sources and the knowledge of the BOWC team. The use of content on this page without prior written permission from BOWC is strictly prohibited. Any photographs not owned by BOWC have been sourced under license with full credit given below the images used. Conservation status shown is as reported by the IUCN Red List. If you believe any of the information on this page is demonstrably inaccurate or has been used without proper accreditation, please e-mail

bottom of page