Vulture Life – About Feeding and Quality Time

The circle of life with regard to vultures. Or in other words as seen from vulture perspectivs. The basic things in vulture life. You might ask yourself what that might be? Is it about feeding and doing nothing? From human perspective, only few people know anything about vultures at all. Most vultures are quite large animals. So, what is their daily life routine? To answer this question we must differentiate between breeding season and the rest of the year, when the young vultures have gone to life in groups of immature birds.

vulture life and feeding two rueppells vultures
Vulture Life: fedding – Two Rüppell’s Vultures

Vulture Life: Search – Feed – Digest – Sleep – Do nothing

Als already mentioned above, the daily life routine if different from pairs breeding and nurseying and rearing the young from the rest of the year. Also consinder, that young vultures do not breed until they become mature, aged about 4-5 years. Young vultures do not have to think about bringing food to the nest.

Search Strategies

What we know from vultures, especially the large species of the griffon genus and other vultures like the large Cinereous Vulture is that they start their search flights every day. These search flights begin rather late in the morning and mostly not before 10 to 11 am. (1000 h to 1100 h). The flights begin late because these large birds need the thermal up-drafts to gain hight and glide in the thermals over many kilometers / miles per day. They search the ground from heights of about 500 to 1000 m, the Cinereous Vulture and related vultures search from heights of only 100 m. Bearded Vulture and Egyptian Vulture also search from heights of under 100 m. The high rising Gpys vultures co-operate with other vultures of their company. Once one of them has detected a carcas and glides down to ground all high rising vultures follow their mate to the carcase. Search flights can take hours per day. Vultures of the Griffon genus search for 7-8 hours per day whereas Cinereous Vultures and their related species search for 7-11 hours. These are more general times because flights stop once a carcas has been found.

rueppells vulture feeding on sheep
Rueppell’s Vulture feeding on a sheep

Feeding Strategies

It is important to know that fresh cadaver are not accepted as new food by Gyps vultures. They are shy and wary and untouched cadavers are watched for one or two days before they start feeding from it. Only if the cadaver has already been touched by ravens and show the firs holes in skin and body. Only then Gyps vultures and Cinereous Vultures get immediately to feast on the dead animal. Their long necks help them not only penetrating the skin but also to reach deep insinde the body to the intestines and internal organs. We should remember that vulture are able to digest cadaveric poisons without suffering any harm. The large Griffon and Cinereous Vultures can stuff themselves with up. 1.4 kg of meat during one feeding session.

As usual the vulture most hungry begins feeding on the cadaver. This vulture covers the cadaver with its large wings and tries to prevent others from participating. From the moment the hunger is less urgent, others can start feeding too. After a short while up to 50 and more vultures can sit at the cadaver and feed. This continues for a while. When too many vultures are around one of them will start a brawl and eventually every vulture will be enganged in beating up some other vulture. The brawls stops as quickly as it started and everyone is going away leaving the cadaver to Bearded Vulture and Egyptian Vulture.

griffon vulture feeding on meat
Griffon Vulture feeding on a large piece of meat bone

Being Full and what now?

This is our question. Are vultures starting again to their daily search flights? No they don’t. Believe or not when vultures are full they rest. They preen their plumage, sit on a perch and watch the surroundings. But they don’t do any work, so to speak. Besides, it is most interesting to know that vultures ly down when sleeping or simply resting from the world’s hustle. It is comparable to us humans lying on a couch having a nap. When vultures are fully fed, nothing is going to disturb their resting phase which can last longer than 24 hours. Only when hunger starts to come back they get back to their daily routine.

When seeing that we could only conclude that vulture life must be easy. Now it is not that easy but compared to our daily chores, hustles and stress routines that sour our life, vultures seem to be better off.

cinereous vulture lying
Cinereous Vulture in a lying position

A carcas and the leftovers

Vultures do not always finish with a carcas in one go. There are leftovers. It can happen that a larger group of vultures just rest in the vicinity of the dead animal until they become hungy again. How do such cadaver and the leftovers look like? The follwing pictures are nothing for sensitive souls but this is nature. So, just in case don’t look any further. Otherwise just have a look. Certainly, we would never ever touch anything like that. Keep in mind that vulture are tasked with clearing the landscape from dead animals, carcases and carrion of any kind. I must admit, this is something they are experts at.

Nothing in nature is there to simply rot away. Even a carcas can fulfill a purpose. After the vultures have left a million of flies decended on carcase to to some work on it. The vultures don’t mind that. If hunger comes back they continue feeding on the leftovers.

A carcas of an animal
Animal cadaver
Animal cadaver
rueppells vulture resting
Adulte Rüppell’s Vulture – Resting and relaxing: Please do not disturb

You may also be interested in Vullture inter-species behaviour click here

In case you are interested in European Vulture Conservation you may check out their site for further reference.

Published by Raymond Loyal Photography

Bird, Nature, Art and Architecture Photographer, Traveller, Blogger.

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