• Welcome to BirdForum, the internet's largest birding community with thousands of members from all over the world. The forums are dedicated to wild birds, birding, binoculars and equipment and all that goes with it.

    Please register for an account to take part in the discussions in the forum, post your pictures in the gallery and more.
ZEISS DTI thermal imaging cameras. For more discoveries at night, and during the day.

White-backed Vulture - BirdForum Opus

Photo © by peterday
Kruger National Park, South Africa, 14 November 2019
Gyps africanus


Measurements: Length 90-98 cm; wingspan 212-220-228 cm; wing (27) 550-621, 9-680; tail (27) 225-258, 4-290; tarsus (27) 86-98, 3-118; culmen (25) 42, 3-47-50. Weight (293) 3550-5353,6-6700 g.
Bare Parts: Iris dark brown; bill and cere black; bare skin of head dark grey; skin of lower neck blackish; legs and feet black.
Large size; body plumage generally brown, faintly streaky; iris dark; face blackish, neck pink; white lower back conspicuous when flying away; buffy white under wing contrasts with dark remiges. Cape Vulture has pale yellowish iris; no white on back; paler coloration overall; larger size.
Immature: Darker than adult; lower back streaked brown and white; under parts streaked light and dark; under wing mottled brown and white.
Chick: Grayish brown; iris dark brown; cere and legs Grayish black.


Sub-Saharan Africa: widespread and common from Senegal east to Sudan, Ethiopia and western Somalia and south to north-east Namibia, Botswana and north-eastern South Africa. Absent from most forested areas of West and Central Africa and decreasing in far north and south of range.


This is a monotypic species[1], which is sometimes considered as conspecific with Asian White-backed Vulture G. bengalensis.


Searches for carrion over savanna, roosting and nesting colonially on ledges on cliff-faces in mountains.


Gregarious; less so when breeding.
Roosts in trees at night, soaring out soon after sunrise to forage; gliding speed about 58-65 km/h, but can dive at up to 120 km/h; follows other vultures, crows, kites, Bateleur and hyenas or lions to locate food. Often rests on ground by day; drinks and bathes regularly at waterholes. Aggressive at carcass, new arrivals bounding in with wings and neck outstretched; may loaf on ground near carcass for hours after feeding.
White-backed Vultures are adapted to feeding on soft tissues (muscles, intestines etc) and cannot rip open the large carcasses. They are therefore reliant on other vultures or mammals to break into the carcass.


  1. Clements, JF. 2009. The Clements Checklist of Birds of the World. 6th ed., with updates to December 2009. Ithaca: Cornell Univ. Press. ISBN 978-0801445019.

Recommended Citation

External Links

Search the Gallery using the scientific name:

Search the Gallery using the common name:

GSearch checked for 2020 platform.