White-headed Vulture

Scientific Name:  Trigonoceps occipitalis

In 2000 White-headed were listed as Vulnerable in the Red Data Book. In 2015 their status was uplifted to Critically Endangered. There is now only an estimated 160 adult birds left in South Africa, and like all our vulture species, these numbers are dropping.

The increasing incidents of large-scale poisoning, most notably motivated by poaching incidents and harvesting for the traditional health industry, have been identified as the biggest threats to this species.

The White-headed Vulture is a medium sized vulture species which has been described as being an attractive vulture due to the handsome black and white plumage and colorful bill, cere and facial skin. These vultures start off having dark heads as juveniles, with the plumage changing to white as they age.

The species prefers mixed, dry woodlands, but avoids semi arid thorn bush areas. Pairs are monogamous and most nests are found in Acacia and Baobab trees. One egg is laid, but 61% of pairs do not breed every year due to having a dependent chick from the previous year.

These vultures tend to fly lower than the other species, and are often the first vulture species to arrive at a carcass. The bigger vultures out compete them at a large carcass, and they will then remain on the periphery. They readily feed off smaller carcasses and have occasionally been known to kill their own prey.

Maloti-Drakensberg Vulture Project