Cape Vulture
Common Name Cape Griffon and Kolbe's Vulture
Range southern Africa, and is found mainly in South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana and in some parts of northern Namibia.
Scientific Classification
Kingdom Animalia
Phylum Chordata
Class Aves
Order Accipitriformes
Family Accipitridae
Genus Gyps
Species Gyps coprotheres
Conservation Status

The Cape griffon or Cape vulture (Gyps coprotheres), also known as Kolbe's vulture, is a species of Old World vulture in the Accipitridae family. It is endemic to southern Africa, and is found mainly in South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana and in some parts of northern Namibia. It nests on cliffs and lays one egg per year. Since 2015, it has been classified as Endangered.


This large vulture is of a creamy-buff colour, with contrasting dark flight- and tail-feathers. The adult is paler than the juvenile, and its underwing coverts can appear almost white at a distance. The head and neck are near-naked. The eyes are yellowish and the bill is black bill. Juveniles and immatures are generally darker and more streaked, with brown to orange eyes and red neck.

The average length of adult birds is about 96–115 cm (38–45 in) with a wingspan of 2.26–2.6 m (7.4–8.5 ft) and a body weight of 7–11 kg (15–24 lb). The two prominent bare skin patches at the base of the neck, also found in the white-backed vulture, are thought to be temperature sensors and used for detecting the presence of thermals. The species is among the largest raptors in Africa, next to the lappet-faced vulture. After the Himalayan griffon vulture and the cinereous vulture, the Cape vulture is the third largest Old World vulture.

Habitat and Distribution

The Cape vulture occurs in Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, South Africa, and Zimbabwe. Formerly it could also be found in Namibia and Swaziland. Vagrants are occasionally recorded from the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Zambia.

The species usually breeds and roosts on cliff faces in or near mountains, from where it can fly long distances in search of the large animal carcasses on which it specializes.


The Cape vulture has been declining steadily since at least the 1980s, when it was first categorized as Threatened. It was later upgraded to Vulnerable and, in 2015, to Endangered. As of 2013, estimates of total population size assume about 4,700 pairs or 9,400 mature individuals.

The species is considered to be impacted by a large number of threats. A decrease in the amount of large carrion (particularly during nesting), poisoning (targeted or inadvertent), electrocution or collision with cables on electricity pylons, loss of foraging habitat, and unsustainable harvesting for traditional uses are thought to be the most important factors.

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