Scientific Name: Neophron percnopterus Afrikaans Name: Egiptiese Aasvoël
Records of the Egyptian vultures in Southern Africa date back as far as 1680, but now these fascinating birds are thought to be extinct in this country. Juvenile Egyptian vultures are actually dark brown birds and get lighter in colour with age
Probably the most unique characteristic of these birds is that they are one of the few animals recorded to use ‘tools’. By holding smaller stones in their beaks and throwing them against large eggs (like ostrich eggs) they break the shell to access the contents. Using smaller eggs, like those stolen from flamingo or White Pelican colonies, they pick up and throw them against a hard surface to break them. Unfortunately, this habit is one factor that has led to their population decline as they were persecuted in the past by ostrich farmers protecting their breeding livestock.
Eggs are not their primary food however and these interesting vultures mainly feed on carrion. They also eat insects, offal, refuse and dung. Their long, thin bill is well adapted for picking tiny remnants of meat off bones
The African Bird of Prey Sanctuary is lucky enough to have its very own Egyptian Vulture called Cleopatra. With the species obviously extinct in the wild in South Africa this special bird came from further afield in Africa. Cleo arrived safely from Tanzania where she was found sitting in a quarantine station Cleo has been getting chicken eggs once a week and in her new enclosure we hope to train her to show off her egg breaking skill to visitors. We hope to soon import her a boyfriend and hope that she likes him and then if we are lucky they will breed.
Cleo’s house was adapted from the old bunny pen and has lots of hard surfaces and rocks for her to play with. Grass tufts are scattered around a rather arid, sandy floor to simulate the habitats they prefer and breeding platforms are ledges like the cliffs they choose to make their nests on.