The Christmas season is upon us, and what better way to celebrate with beloved pictures of vultures? Similar to hyenas, these species are often, to put it lightly, distrusted and hated. Unlike hyenas however, vultures are not exactly the cutest specimens...Therefore, to spread awareness and overall holiday cheer, I present some Mara vultures.
|A black-backed jackal digs into a carcass whilst Gypsii vultures stand cautiously nearby.|
We get a chance to see these guys when we find a dead animal. It may sound less than glamorous, but I personally enjoy the feasting of dead ungulate. We typically see six species of bird in the Talek part of the Mara (listed in terms of feeding hierarchy, aka who’s the boss): the Lappet-faced vulture, the Rüppell’s vulture (also known as Griffin vulture), the white-backed vulture, the hooded vulture, the tawny eagle, and the Marabou stork.
|A Lappet-faced vulture rules the roost, you could say.|
|Gypsii vultures, aka white-backed and Griffin vultures. The Griffen have the yellow-ish beaks.|
|The hooded vulture|
|The gorgeous/weak tawny eagle|
|A chatty Marabou stork voices some important thought.|
Additionally, Gypsii (Rüppell and white-backed) vultures have been found to follow tawny eagles to carcasses. Most of the time, eagles are the first to find a dead hunk of meat while the vultures instead scan the skies for their competitors. Because the vultures are the dominant species, they can arrive fashionably late and still kick a tawny eagle off the dead carcass before you can say, “let’s tear open that wildebeest’s anus!” Tawny eagles also have a stronger bill, which can dig through an ungulate hide, whereas vultures act more as scroungers (Kane et al. 2014). So unfortunately for the eagles, though they may open the carcass, the vultures tend to get more of the meat.
|A white-backed vulture giving the death stare and marching.|
Some of this information came from the following source, however a lot was relayed to me by a wonderful RA out here, Wilson Kilong, who worked on a vulture project before studying hyenas. Thanks Wilson, you’re the best!
Kane, A., Jackson, A.L., Ogada, D.L., Monadjem, A., McNally, L. 2014. Vultures acquire information on carcass location from scavenging eagles. Proc. Royal Society. 281: 1793.