Monday, 8 September 2014

The “ugly ducklings” of the bird family

Let’s face it, most people are not smitten by vultures but despite your opinion of these birds, they are vitally important scavengers.
Lappet face vulture in flight by Corne Schalkwyk. 

Research in East Africa has shown that carcasses decompose almost twice as fast when vultures forage at carcasses as opposed to carcasses where vultures are not present. If vultures were to go extinct, carcasses may persist longer in the environment and this could have a number of consequences for the health of wildlife, livestock and humans.

Lappet-faced Vulture uses its strong bill to tear up skin and tendons. It also steals food to other raptors feeding close to him. It often feeds first, because it is the most adapted to tear up the skin and starting the feast. The strong, large bill easily tears up the flesh, and thanks to the bare head and neck, it is able to dig about into the carcasses without blood on its feathers. 
A pair of lappet Face vultures in Uganda by Corne Schalkwyk 
 Ruppell's vultures, named after a German explorer, are large African vultures. Much of their day is spent soaring in the air on thermal currents, at some surprisingly high altitudes, and using their keen eyesight to spot long forgotten carcasses. They home in on the carcass in flocks and with all the tasty flesh gone, these scavengers will eat what's left over, using their powerful hooked beaks to tear skin and break bones with ease. A decline in the range of these very social birds is partly a result of their being used in black magic.

Ruppell's vulture Photo by Tui de Roy

Question for the day - Did you know that Rüppell's & Lappet-faced vultures are the only two species of vultures that can open up carcasses?

This post was re-posted from "One photo at a time" - Photography page by Corne Schalkwyk. 

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