Bird of the Week – Whiteheaded vulture

THE whiteheaded vulture is a rare species found over most of Africa, south of the Sahara.It avoids forests and deserts and is absent from 29° south.These vultures like woodland and semi-desert scrub. Found solitary or in pairs, they roost in trees at night, flying out early to forage within restricted areas. They usually arrive first at a carcass but cannot compete with the bigger vultures when they arrive but later pirate chunks from them. They are usually silent but have a shrill chattering around the carcass. Apart from carrion, they do kill for themselves, at times often feeding on hares, lizards, guinea fowls, nestling flamingos and their eggs.

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The breeding season is from May to August. One white egg is laid in a nest which is a large platform of sticks lined with grass. They like to build the nest on top of baobab or other flat-topped acacia trees. Incubation is about 55 days and nestlings remain for 110 days.

The African name is mawalangi and in Afrikaans, witkopaasvoel.

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