Hooded Vulture – A Bird of the African Continent

The Hooded Vulture is a true Old World Vulture and monotypical to the genus of Necrosyrtes; meaning it is the only bird in this genus. As such it is a native to the African continent where we find it in two different variations. By size and wingspan this vulture is a rather smallish version of a vulture. This vulture is a social bird, breeds colonial and lays only one egg per breeding season.

Geographical Variations

  • Necorsystres monachus monachus: from West Africa to Sudan and north Uganda
  • Necrosyrtes m. pileatus: from East Sudan and Ethiopia southwards through East Africa to Angola and South Africa. This variation is very similar in appearance to N. m. monachus, though slighly larger, longer wings and longer tails and tarsi. With the exception of northern populations it is much less gregarious and does not as closely associate with people. It sticks to its natural habitat and feeding behaviour.
hooded vulture
Hooded Vulture – Source: Patrick_Gijsbers/Agency iStock

Characteristics of the Hooded Vulture


Order: Accipitriformes
Family: Accipitritdae
Genus: Necrosyrtes
Species: Hooded Vulture

Scientific Name: Necrosyrtes monachus

Names and Synonyms of the Hooded Vulture

Germany: Kappengeier
France: Néophrone moine
Netherlands: Kapgier
Italy: Capovaccaio pileato
Finland: Huppokorppikotka
Sweden: Munkgam
Poland: Sęp brunatny
Russia: Бурый стервятник

Distribution – Movements – Habitat

Distribution: Afrotropical. Generally scarce south of the equator common north of equator. Common in sub-Saharan Africa: from Senegal and south Mauretania through southern Niger and Chad to southern Sudan, Ethiopia and west Somalia and from there southwards to northern Namibia and Botswana, through Zimbabwe to south Mozambique northeastern South Africa; except for unbroken forest.

Movements: Mostly nomadic movements of immatures, adults are sedentary.

Habitat: Hooded Vultures are often commensal with humans and therefore appear in settlements and urban areas, scavenging at abattoirs, rubbish dumps, market places; also numerous at open grassland and wooded savannah. Also, they appear in desert and coastal flats. In Kenya and Tanzania Hooded Vultures are also common in open or well-wooded country, on forest edges. They usually wait for scraps at cattle-pens and in small villages.

In Southern Africa rural settlements and built-up areas are avoided. Settles in medium mountain ranges up to sealevels of 1,800 m;, search flights at altitudes of 3,000 to 4,000 m.


South of the equator the Hooded Vulture is mostly solitary and appears in small parties only. Hooded Vultures appear at carcases in groups of up to 50 individuals. They like gathering at abattoirs and any sort of abandoned food sources. At such places they keep perching in trees in numbers.

The Hooded Vulture has the ability to tear muscle and fat from bones and even to tear skin of the meat.

However, the Hooded Vulture gives way to larger vultures at food sources. They owe the ability to run and walk, but lack any ability to cut living animals. In case of insufficient food Hooded Vultures hunt even for insects.

It appears that Hooded Vultures are not very shy because they tend to approach humans at close range. Also, they follow farmers behind the plow to retrieve insects from the ground. These birds posses very good flight abilities. Mostly Hooded Vultures are first to arrive at food sources.


Size: 54-66 cm
Tail: 21-24 cm
Weight: 1,500-2,600 g
Wingspan: 150-180 cm
Northern Hooded Vulture: 467-500 mm
East-Southern Hooded Vulture: ♂ 480 mm; ♀ 510 mm


The Hooded Vulture is mostly silent. Though it utters squealing and chittering sounds at food and at the nest site.


Mature: Hooded Vultures probably mature not before the 3rd to 4th year of age.
Mating: Hooded Vultures are monogamous lifelong breeding pairs. Their mating coincides with building and moving into the nest. Mating times vary according to the geographical region.
Clutches per breeding season: 1 clutch

Breeding: In West Africa the Hooded Vulture starts breeding between November to July; in northern Africa mainly between October to June; in Southern Africa between May to December, though mostly between April to June; from Senegal to Gambia breeding starts between December to February/March.

Nest: Hooded Vultures are colonial breeders. They build a nest made of sticks measuring 50 to 100 cm across and 20-75 cm deep. The Nest is lined with leaves, grass, hair, skin and rags. Usually the nest sits in subcanopy forks on tall trees such as palm, ebony or any other tree that might be suitable. Only rarely, nests are also built on cliffs.

Clutch – Eggs – Measurements

Clutch: 1 egg
Eggs: elliptical creme-coloured egg with reddish-brown staints, usually massed on one pole.
Egg Measurements:
Length x Width: 74.0×53.0 mm
East Africa: 71.9×54.9 mm
Weight: no data recorded

Egg of the Hooded Vulture – Source: Didier Descouens – own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=16432210


Breeding: West Africa and Kenya mostly between November – July; northern Africa mainly between October to June, southern Africa May to December – mostly April to June; Senegal to Gambia December – February/March.

Nest: Colonial. Small nest made of sticks measuring 50-100 cm across and 20-75 cm deep. Nest lined with leaves, grass, hair, skin and rags; sits in subcanopy fork on tall trees such as palm, ebony or any other tree. Only rarely on cliffs or buildings.

Clutch: 1egg

Eggs: elliptical creme-coloured egg with reddish-brown staints usually massed on one pole.

Egg Measurements and Weights

Length x Width: 74.0×53.0 mm – East Africa; 71.9×54.9 mm – South Africa(n=100)

Weight: ≈ ??? g, no recorded data available

Recurrent Clutch: No recurrent clutches after early loss of clutch (Balsac, cited in W. Fischer).

Incubation: ≃ (46-)48-54 days, both parents share the task of incubating. The ♂ is reported to sit on the nest during lunchtime, when the ♀ leaves the nest for feeding.

Fledging: Fledging after c. 80-90 days. Though, it is known that the young Hooded Vulture already leaves the nest before plumage is fully grown. At the time of leaving the nest the young does not have any flight ability but already consumes all food it can access. During their migration period, young Hooded Vulturs scan the shorelines and beaches for washed up fish and crabs.


Food: Processes cadaver, carcases, carrion, insects and bones.

Longevity: unknown.

Mortality: unknown.

Threats: Natives proof to be protective of the Hooded Vultures, obviously the vultures are deemed necessary for daily life.


Brown, Leslie, Die Greifvögel, Ihre Biologie und Ökologie, Paul Parey Verlag Hamburg und Berlin, 1979
Cramp, Stanley (HG) et al, Handbook of the birds of Europe the Middle East and North Africa, Volume II Hawks to Bustards, Oxford University Press Oxfort London New York, 1980

Ferguson-Lees, James, Christie, David, Raptors of the World, A Field Guide, Christopher Helm London, 2005, reprinted 2019
Ferguson-Lees, James and Christie, David A., Raptors of the World, Houghton Mifflin Company Boston New York, 2001

Fischer, Wolfgang, Die Geier, Die Neue Brehm-Bücherei, A. Ziemsen Verlag Lutherstadt Wittenberg, 1963
Glutz von Blotzheim, Urs et. al (HG), Handbuch der Vögel Mitteleuropas, Band 4, Falconiformes, AULA-Verlag Wiesbaden, 2. durchgesehene Auflage 1989
Grzimek, Bernhard et al (HG), Grzimeks Tierleben, Band VII, Vögel 1, Kindler Verlag AG Zürich, 1968
Weick, Friedhelm, Die Greifvögel der Welt, Verlag Paul Parey Hamburg und Berlin, 1980EXTERNAL LINKS

Hooded Vulture, “Hooded Vulture”. www. oiseaux-birds.com retrieved 2021_04_19


Egg of the Hooded Vulture: By Didier Descouens – Eigenes Werk, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=16432210

Hooded Vulture: by Patrick_Gijsbers/Agency iStock
Featured Image: Flying Hooded Vulture by Hedrus/Agency iStock
Egg of the Hooded Vulture – Source: Didier Descouens – own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=16432210

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Published by Raymond Loyal Photography

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

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