Scientifically referred to as Gyps rueppelli, the Ruppell’s Griffon Vulture is one of the unique bird species explored on Uganda birding safaris. The Ruppell’s Vulture derives its name from the German Explorer, zoologist and collector Eduard Ruppell who thrived in the 19th Century and it is recorded as the highest flying bird with the capacity to rise up to 11,300m
The Ruppell’s Griffon Vulture is a large vulture with the adults stretching from 85 – 103cm in length and a wingspan of 2.26 – 2.6m carrying a weight of 6.4 – 9kg. The plumage is black or mottled brown with whitish-brown under parts while the neck and head is covered with a thin dirty-white fluff. The bird features a yellow eye while the base of the neck features a white collar as viewed on birding safaris in Uganda. The Ruppell’s Griffon Vultures are very silent and only vocalize while at their nest or a carcass.
They are notably social bird species and as a result, they roost, nest and gather to feed in large flocks. Their range includes; woodlands, Mountains and grasslands and can stretch up to 150km from their nests in search of food. Their flight to higher altitudes is supported by their haemoglobin alpha that has great affinity for oxygen which enables them to absorb oxygen despite the upper troposphere’s low partial pressure.
The Ruppell’s Vultures are specialised feeders with very strong build which enables them to consume even the hide and bones of the carcass after the soft parts have been finished. Their tongue features back-ward pointing spikes that enable them to extract meat from the bone.
Regarding reproduction, the Ruppell’s Griffon Vulture is monogamous and creates lasting breeding pairs. Following the courtship, the pair works with one another to construct the nest with use of sticks, leaves and grass as encountered by birders on a safari in Uganda. The incubation of the egg lasts for 55 days and is done by both parties. The caring for chick is done by both parents for a range of 150 days. Partial caring continues until the next breeding season.
The Populations of the Ruppell’s Griffon Vulture have been on drastic decline as a result of habitat loss, hunting for trade, poisoning and collision. As a result of this trend, the International Union for Conservation of Nature lists Ruppell’s Griffon Vulture as critically endangered on its red list.