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White-backed Vulture

Gyps africanus


78 - 98cm

1.9 - 2.3m

4.2 - 7.2kg

20 yrs





The white-backed vulture is an Old World vulture in the family Accipitridae. It is closely related to the European griffon vulture, G. fulvus. It is often referred to as the African white-backed vulture to distinguish it from the Oriental white-backed vulture — nowadays usually called the white-rumped vulture — to which it was formerly believed to be closely related.

Critically Endangered




The white-backed vulture is a typical medium-sized vulture. Its head and neck only has a sparse covering of fluffy down-like feathers with ends in a large white neck ruff. It has very broad wings yet short tail feathers. The adult’s whitish back, from which its name is derived, contrasts with its otherwise dark plumage. Juveniles are largely dark.

What Does it Look Like?


What Does it Sound Like?


Their calls are largely attributed to hunting behaviour. One trait that vultures have are their distinct vocalizations specific to eating. White-backed vultures give out a yell when they are locked onto a target, or even when they are in the process of eating. This may be the staking of a claim, as they do not share with others.


Its main food source is animal carcasses such as those of warthogs, zebras, gazelles or ostriches, which it finds by following water sources. They may also feed on dead livestock which is a contributing factor to their decline, as animals treated with certain drugs or those felled by a bullet leave chemical or lead traces that poison the vulture.

What Does it Eat?


Where Does it Nest?


It breeds in trees on the savannah of west and east Africa, laying just one egg. One cause of population decrease is the loss of viable nesting habitat. Elephants have been endangering the vultures, since they destroy the trees the vultures live and nest in. As a result, vultures tend not to nest in areas with high elephant populations.


It is found in Africa, from Senegal in the west, throughout East Africa into Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia and South Africa. It is primarily a lowland species that prefers open wooded savanna, particularly areas of Acacia. It is especially drawn to game reserves and farms where livestock is present, providing opportunities for easy prey.

Where Does it Live?


What is its Status?


Its scarcity has increased rapidly, with its ongoing decline deemed more severe than previously thought. Its main threat stems from herdsmen intentionally adding poison to livestock to kill hyenas and lions, which ends up being consumed by vultures. It is hoped that working with local farmers and veterinarians can prevent its extinction.

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