X

Rüppell’s Griffon Vulture

Gyps rueppellii

Vulture Gallery

About the Rüppell’s Griffon Vulture

statusImg.Name

Geographic Range:

rangeImg.Name

Class: Aves  
Order: Falconiformes   
Family: Accipitridae  
Genus: Gyps  
Species: rupellii

The Rüppell’s Griffon Vulture is named after the 19th century German explorer and zoologist Eduard Rüppell. These social birds nest in colonies of roughly 100 pairs in their mountainous habitat. Rüppell's vultures are scavengers, relying solely on carcasses and remains of other killed or dead animals for food. Don’t mistake their lack of hunting for laziness or weakness—Rüppell’s vultures can soar to unbelievable heights.  An aircraft once collided with a Rüppell's vulture at an altitude of 37,000 feet!

Rüppell's Griffon Vulture Facts

Appearance:

The Rüppell's griffon vulture has patchy black or brown blotches over its body, with a whitish brown underbelly and thin, dirty-white fluff covering its neck and head. It has a white collar at the base of its neck, yellow or amber eyes, and a dark chocolate brown crop patch. 

These birds have a powerful bill used to rip meat, hide and even bones off of a carrion carcass. Their tongues have backward-facing spines which help them remove meat from bone.

Size:

  • Length: Approx. 3 feet
  • Weight: 15 - 20 pounds
  • Wingspan: 8 feet

Diet:

In the wild, Rüppell's griffon vultures are scavengers, eating the carcass and remains of dead animals.

Reproduction:

Rüppell's griffon vultures are monogamous, and after mating, both the male and female share nesting duties, incubating one egg for about 55 days. After hatching, chicks fledge at around 160 days of age.

Behavior:

These social birds nest in colonies of up to 100 pairs or more. Unlike some vultures, the Rüppell's griffon vulture is completely dependent on locating large carcasses instead of supplementing with live prey. Therefore, birds must travel long distances (up to nearly 100 miles) from their nest in source of food. Luckily, these birds are fast, traveling up to 22 miles per hour. They can ascent to heights of approximately 20,000 feet.

Vultures rely on keen eyesight to locate food. They'll communicate to other vultures through a circling motion to alert them that a carcass has been spotted.

Habitat/Range:

Rüppell's griffon vultures live in more arid and mountainous areas of Africa, particularly in semi-desert and the fringes of deserts. They can be found roosting on rock ledges if present, or in trees, typically the Acacia.

Median Life Expectancy:

Rüppell's griffon vultures live for 30-40 years in captivity. Their life expectancy in the wild is unknown.

Committed to Conservation

Vultures are scavengers, eating the carcass and remains of dead animals. By removing waste and controlling the spread of disease, these birds play a key role in the stability of ecosystems in which they live. The primary threat to this bird’s survival in the wild is poisoning. Vultures are often poisoned in retaliation for livestock losses. Poachers will also poison vultures to prevent rangers from detecting their illegal activities. As a result, threats to the vulture’s survival overlap heavily with those of other species, particularly African elephants and lions.

Due to these widespread poisoning deaths, the IUCN Red List status of African-Eurasian vultures has seen drastic changes for the worse in recent years. Rapid declines have been noted for almost all species throughout large portions of the African continent. The majority of species are now listed as Critically Endangered, the highest category of threat, indicating a very high risk of extinction in the wild.

AZA SAFE

We're proud to support the Association of Zoos and Aquariums' SAFE initiative: A commitment to harness our collective resources, focus on specific endangered species, and save them from extinction by restoring healthy populations in the wild. AZA institutions have played a critical role in the conservation of other vulture species such as California condors. AZA institutions are engaging with local communities about the issue of poisoning and how it impacts vultures and other African species by providing information on the importance of vultures for the ecosystem. AZA organizations are also monitoring populations to determine areas with the highest declines. The goal of the African Vulture Action Plan is to improve the population status of all six target species in at least 25% of their African distribution by 2020. More

Species Survival Plan

Zoo New England helps Rüppell's griffon vultures by participating in the Species Survival Plan. By sharing research and knowledge, participating institutions work together to establish guidelines that best ensure the health of captive populations, and with success, the survival of otherwise extinct species.

Quarters for Conservation

We've supported The Peregrine Fund through our Quarters for Conservation Program. Through this program, 25 cents from every admission ticket and $2.50 from every membership is used to support wildlife conservation across the globe. New programs and initiatives are selected for the program every six months. Learn more.