Weight: 15 - 18 lbs
Wing span: 26 inches
Top Speed (Air): 22 mph
Also Called: Ruppell's Vulture Expanded wings (407 KB)
Ruppells' griffin has black and brown feathers on its body and smaller white ones on its head and neck. It has a sharp beak that it uses to tear skin and meat when it eats.
Ruppell's vulture is a scavenger. It eats the carcass of other animals. Unlike some vultures, it does not supplement this diet with living prey. Rather, it is completely dependent on locating large carcasses. This means that they must sometimes travel long distances (up to 93 miles) from their nest to find food. Once the vulture spots food, it begins circling overhead. Other vultures see this and quickly fly to the same location. Once a few birds land on the ground, the others rush to get a place at the carcass. They can devour an antelope in 20 minutes. While this may seem nasty to us, it actually is beneficial to nature. The vultures will remove the parts of the carcass that decay and quickly clean the area.
This vulture nests high on cliffs in northern Africa. Since it relies on sight to locate its food, it cannot search in forested areas. It prefers more open, arid land. At the Gol escarpment in eastern Africa, there have been more than 1,000 pairs of Ruppell's vultures spotted.
Ruppell's griffin is a very social bird. Unlike some vultures, it nests in colonies of up to 100 pairs or more. Their circling motion is an alert to other vultures that a carcass has been spotted. Soon, a flock of vultures will be on the scene.
Ruppell's griffin has keen eyesight and completely relies on it to locate food. It was once thought that they used smell instead, but today it is believed that sight is used.