The Palmnut Vulture (Gypohierax angolensis) is an Old World Vulture belonging to the Gypohierax genus. As a vulture it comes across as rather smallish, sized only between 57-65 cm in length and with a wingspan of merely 133-155 cm. This vulture is a true native of Africa.
Size does not matter, as usual, and size is not the only feature making this vulture the odd one out. The reason for being special is simply based on the bird’s diet. This vulture mostly feeds on the fruits of the palm oil tree. Only to a much lesser dedgree the vulture on fish, crabs and amphibiens. Though, the Palmnut Vulture does not feed on carcases or carrion as the larger vulture species usually do.
This vulture is also known under the name “Vulturine Fish Eagle”.
Characteristics of the Palmnut Vulture
Species: Palmnut Vulture
Scientific Name: Gypohierax angolensis
Names and Synonyms of the Palmnut Vulture
French: Palmiste africain
Spanish: Buitre Palmero
Italian: Avvoltoio delle palme
Russian: Пальмовый гриф
Distribution – Movements – Habitat – Behaviour
Distribution: Palmnut Vultures are Afrotropical and are locally abundant from West Africa to Angola. In Sub-Saharan Africa they distribute in: Senegal and Gambia (Senegambia) to south Mali; Central Nigera and southernmost Chad, from Sudan southwards to Angola, Zambia, Mozambique; also in the extreme northeastern South Africa (Zululand); east Kenya and northeast Tanzania, Pemba and Zanzibar.
Movements: Palmnut Vultures are always move to rich food grounds. Meaning, in case of diminishing food supplies the vultures simply leave the area to settle somewhere else. Otherwise adults are sedentary. Immature birds are nomadic and migrate during their first years.
Habitat: Forests, tall woodland, mixed forest, cultivation of oil and raffia palms; streams, rivers, lakes, oil-palm plantations. Palmnut Vultures require waterside natural forests to breed. Also, they settle in wooded savannah without direct access to water. They do not approach larger settlements but allow humans to approach closely. Palmnut Vultures distribute up to sealevels of 1,500 m.
Behaviour: The Palmnut Vulture mostly feeds directly from palm oil trees. Also, they go on search flights to find food.
Measurements and Voice
Size: 57-65 cm
Tail: 19-21 cmm
Weight: 1,700-1,900 (max 2,100) g
Wingspan: 133-145 cm
Wing: 390-461 mm
Voice: The Palmnut Vulture is rather silent. It utters low growls when feeding and duck-like quacking at roost; also hissing, whistling and barking sounds are known to be uttered.
Mature: Palmnut Vultures probably mature in their 4th year of age, when changing into adult plumage:
Mating: Mating usually coincides with courtship and nest building.
Clutches per breeding season: 1 clutch
Breeding: Start of breeding depends on the geographical region. In Nigeria, Palmnut Vultures generally start breeding between January and April. Mostly across the disbritution area, Palmnut Vultures breed between January to Augus and also between July to November.
Nest: The nest is made from sticks, lined with green leave and palm fronds. Mostly the nest sits on side branches in trees. Their main nesting tree is the palm tree.
Clutch: The clutch always only consits of 1 (one) egg.
Egg: White elliptical egg which is mostly covered with darkish staints.
Egg Measurements and Weights
Length: 67.0-78.3 mm
Width: 52.0-57.0 mm
Ø Length x Width: 70.7×54.0 mm
Weight: no data available
Breeding -Fledging & Dependency
Recurrent clutch: unknown
Breeding: about 41-44 days
Fledging: The chicken of the Palmnut Vulture is fed by both parents and fledges after c. 90 days.
Dependency: After fledging the young Palmnut Vulture returns for sleeping to the nest for another four (4) weeks.
Food: Palmnut Vultures feed on fruit; further on fish, crabs, amphibians, invertebrates, small mammals, birds, reptiles, and carrion. However, their main diet are the fruits of the palm oil tree.
Longevity: no data recorded
Mortality: no data recorded
Threats: Currently, there are stable populations of the Palmnut Vulture in Africa. The main threats to the Palmnut Vulture is the loss of habitat.
Bauer, Hans-Günther, Bezzel, Einhard et. al. (HG), Kompendium der Vögel Mitteleuropas, Band 1+2, Sonderausgabe 2012, Aula Verlag, Wiebelsheim
Bauer, Hans-Günther, Bezzel, Einhard et. al. (HG), Kompendium der Vögel Mitteleuropas, Band 3, Literatur und Anhang, Aula Verlag Wiebelsheim, 2. vollständig überarbeitete Auflage 1993
Baumgart, Wolfgang, Europas Geier, Flugriesen im Aufwind, AULA-Verlag Wiebelsheim, 2001
Bezzel, Einhard, Kompendium der Vögel Mitteleuropas, Non-Passeriformes, Band 1, AULA-Verlag Wiesbaden, 1985
Ferguson-Lees, James and Christie, David A., Raptors of the World, Houghton Mifflin Company Boston New York, 2001
the Palmnut Vulture in the South of Africa: pdf
Posst image of Palmnut Vulture – Source: n7n7/Agency: iStock
Featured Image of Palmnut Vulture – Source: Gelpi/agency iStock
Egg of the Palmnut Vulture – Source: By Didier Descouens – own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=16927677
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