Monday, January 7, 2013

Lappet-faced Vulture

Torgos tracheliotos
The Lappet-faced Vulture is one of the largest Vultures in the world-- they have wingspans of up to 9.5ft! These huge birds of prey around found in Africa and in parts of the Middle East, where they are split into two location-based subspecies.

"Lappet-faced" refers to the skin flaps on their bald heads. As with many other scavenging birds, these Vultures lack feathers on their faces, because that allows them to stay cleaner when digging around in carcasses.

These birds have very powerful beaks, and can break down carrion better than some of the smaller Vultures can. In fact, they often steal kills from their littler cousins, because they aren't dependent on the softer, fresher tissues for food. They actually hunt by sight, spotting other Vultures and going after those meals. Lappet-faced Vultures are not strictly scavengers though-- they have also been spotted staking out ant and termite mounts and taking little insect snacks.

Sadly, this impressively large bird is Vulnerable, and on the decline. A major threat is actually poisoning by humans. Farmers leave out traps to protect their livestock, and though these traps are more intended for the creatures that actually kill the farm animals, the scavenging Vultures will snag them too. Habitat destruction for agriculture and construction has also damaged these birds, especially their nesting sites.

IUCN Status : Vulnerable
Location : Africa
Size : Length up to 45in (115cm), Wingspan up to 9.5ft (2.9m)
Classification : Phylum : Chordata -- Class : Aves -- Order : Accipitriformes
Family : Accipitridae -- Genus : Torgos -- Species : T. tracheliotos

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