The Rüppell’s Vulture an African now also settling in Spain

Rüppell’s Vulture (Gyps rueppelli) is an Old World Vulture belonging to the genus Gyps. At sizes of only 85-97 cm it is rather a largish vulture, with a wing span measuring 228-250 cm. Compared to the much larger Monk Vultures and Griffon Vulture this one looks a bit small. 

As an adult Rüppell’s Vulture bears a blackish or creamy plumage. Head and neck look bare. It is always remarkeable watching the ease at which the vulture can walk and run on its feet. They do much less hopping than the larger species. 

Although Rüppell’s Vulture has been more a native to Africa, we nowadays record inflights of them into Portugal and Spain, mostly in tandem with the much larger Griffon Vultures, with with they usually socialise. 

Rüppell’s Vulture Conservation or a Vulture settling in Europe

Rüppell’s Vulture used to be endemic in Africa and amongst the most common vulture species. Alas, this is no longer the case. In fact this species has had to endure a dramatic drop in population numbers and lost up to 97 % of its population. The Rüppell’s Vulture is only another indicator of decreasing living conditions, persecution, poisonning and loss of habitat. It is not just loss of food because changes made in livestock management. No, it is worse. Apparently some people believe that vulture organs and body parts are some sort of medicine. Vultures are simply killed because their dead bodies are valuable sources for questionable medicine and Rüppell’s Vultures are amongst the species to suffer most from that sort of trade.

In the south of Europe, Rüppell’s Vultures have always been no more than rare sightings. Though up to the 1980s that species appeared at least on a regular basis in Spain and Portugal. It was found out that Rüppell’s Vultures socialised with Griffon Vultures. Meanwhile the Rüppell’s Vulture is no longer a vagrant species or rare guest sithing but a regular guest. Since 2010 immature Rüppell’s Vultures from north Africa regularly cross the Mediterranean Sea to spend some time in Spain and Portugal. In Andalusia the species was now officially recognised as a native to Spain. Even in the South of France we can watch these vultures nowadays. It appears that living conditions, food base and habitat are more suitable to the Rüppell’s Vulture than in northern Africa. Although, it was established that juveniles and immature Rüppell’s Vultures follow the Griffon Vulture during Winter only to return home for the summer.

rueppells vulture
Rüppell’s Vulture

Charactersitics of Rüppell’s Vulture


Order: Accipitriformes
Family: Accipitridae
Genus: Gyps
Species: Rüppell’s Vulture

Scientific Name: Gyps rüppelli

Names and Synonyms of Rüppell’s Vulture

German: Sperbergeier
French: Vautour de Rüppell
Dutch: Rüppells Gier
Italian: Grifone di Rüppell
Spanish: Buitre Moteado
Portuguese: Grifo de Rüppell
Finland: Suomukorppikotka
Czech: Buitre Moteado
Slovak: Buitre Moteado
Hungarian: Buitre Moteado
Corat: Pjegavi sup
Serbia: Pegavi sup
Greek: Στικτός Γύπας
Danish: Rüppells Grib, Svannengrib
Swedish: Rüppellgam
Polish: Sęp plamisty
Russian: Африканский сип
Arabian: نسر روبل
Hebrew: נשר דרומי

rueppells vulture closeup
Rüppell’s Vulture – closeup

Distribution – Migration – Habitat

Distribution: Afrotropical, partly in West Africa. Endemic to the narrow belt of arid sub-Saharan Africa, thereby covering a belt starting in Senegambia and Ginea and eastwards to Ethiopia, south Sudan and Somalia; from there down south to Kenya and Tanzania. Der Sperbergeier ist in Afrika und dort nördlich des Äquators verbreitet. Das Verbreitungsgebiet beginnt in Westafrika im Senegal und ostwärts über Niger und Nordkamerun zum Sudan / Nubien (Bajuda-Steppe), nach Äthiopien und Somalia und im Süden bis nach Uganda und Kenia. Das Verbreitungsgebiet deckt sich somit zu einem großen Teil mit der Sahelzone.

Migration: Mostly seen as non-migratory. When foraging the vulture covers distances between 150 to 200 km from base. Currently young Rüppell’s Vultures continue to migrate to Portugal and Spain and settling there.

Habitat: Dry open country, cliffs, gorges solitary mountains. Forages in open savannah, thornbush and subdeserts. Avoids human settlements. Lives in mountain ranges up to altitudes of 4,000 m.

rueppells vulture adult
Rüppell’s Vulture adult bird
rueppells vulture sitting
Rüppell’s Vuluture sitting

Field Description of Rüppell’s Vulture

Large Gyps vulture but smaller than Griffon Vulture. Plumage brownish-black, boldly cream-scaled. Blackish squills. White downy head and neck. Head and neck similar to Griffon. White feathery ruff. Dark primaries, secondaries and tail feathers. Wing linings contrast to primaries and secondaries but show 2-3 broken bars with adults and immatures.

Bill: yellowish
Cere: grey-blue
Iris: yellowish to grey
Legs/Feet: grey-blue

Measurements and Voice

Size: 85-97 cm
Tail: 26-30 cm
Weight: 8.000-9.000 g, when well fed up to 11 kg
Wingspan: 228-250 cm
Wing: 645-700 mm
Somalia-Gyps rueppelli:
♂: ≈ 665 mm
♀: ≈ 680 mm

Voice: Mostly silent. Utters hisses and grunts not only when feeding but also intraspecific and also towards humans. I conclude that hisses, grunts and squawks are a general way of communication.

rueppells vulture
Rüppell’s Vulture


Breeding: Colonial. The start of breeding depends on the geographical region, but mostly between November to September.

Nest: A newly built nest is a rather small platform of sticks, measuring 60 cm across and only 20 cm deep. After continuous use over many years such a nest can reach dimensions of 1.5 m by 1 m. Decoration and lining with green leaves. Nest usually sits on rock ledges or hidden in crevices.

rueppells vulture head
Rüppell’s Vulture

Clutch, Eggs and Measurements

Clutch: (rarely 2) 1 Egg

Eggs: elliptical eggs with white shell and faint light brown staints

Egg Measurements:: 86,5×63,4 mm
Egg Weight: 204,7 g

Recurrent Clutches: ???.

egg of rueppells vulture museum toulouse desmond didier
Egg of the Rüppell’s Vulture – Source: by Didier Descouens – Eigenes Werk, CC BY-SA 4.0,

Laying – Incubation – Fledging and Dependency

Laying Interval: probably 4 days.

Begin of Breeding: In case of two eggs, most probably directly after laying the first egg.

Incubation: ca. 55 days

Fledging: feeding by both parents, fledges after ca. 150 days.

Dependency: After fledging, the young vulture remains dependent on ist parents for up to 150 days (= 5 months). During this period both parents continue to feed and educate the offspring.

Rüppell's Vulture
Rüppell’s Vulture


Food: As a cadaver processing vulture, Rüppell’s Vulture depends on widely available medium to large cadaver and carrion, which is, especially in EU countries, is hard to come by. From the cadaver guts and muscle is used. Als Kadaververwerter ist der Sperbergeier auf größere bis große Kadaver angewiesen. Aus dem Kadaver werden vor allem Muskelfleisch und Eingeweide genommen. When feeding the vulture can consume a mass of up to 1.4 kg.

Longevity: Rüppell’s Vultures do have a life expectation of up to 30-40 Years.

Mortality: unknown.

Threats: Human persecution, loss of habitat, reduced feeding opportunities, death by colliding with power lines and wind turbines.

rueppells vulture at carcas
Rüppell’s Vulture
two rueppells vultures at carcas
Two Rüppell’s Vultures at carcas
rueppells vulture feeding on carcas
Rüppells Vulture feeding on carcas
rueppells vulture feeding time
Rüppells’s Vulture at carcas
rueppells vulture processing carcas
Rüppell’s Vulture processing a carcas


Baumgart, Wolfgang, Europas Geier, Flugriesen im Aufwind, AULA-Verlag Wiebelsheim, 2001

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

Fischer, Wolfgang, Die Geier, Die Neue Brehm-Bücherei, Verlag A. Ziemsen Lutherstadt Wittenberg, 1963

Forsman, Dick, Flight Identification of Raptors of Europe, North Africa and the Middle East, Bloomsbury Christopher Helm London, 2016

Glutz von Blotzheim, Urs et. al (HG), Handbuch der Vögel Mitteleuropas, Band 4, Falconiformes, AULA-Verlag Wiesbaden, 2. durchgesehene Auflage 1989

Svenson, Lars et. al, Der Kosmos Vogelführer, Franck-Kosmos Verlag GmbH & Co. KG, Stuttgart, 2. Auflage 2011

Vultures Conservation Foundation – European Vulture Protection and Conservation

rueppells vulture watching photographer
Rüppell’s Vulture watching the photographer

Image Credits

Featured image of Rüppells’s Vulture by: ©Raymond Loyal

Egg of the Rüppell’s Vulture – Source: by Didier Descouens – Eigenes Werk, CC BY-SA 4.0,

All other post images of Rüppell’s Vulture by: ©Raymond Loyal

rueppells vulture being curious
Rüppell’s Vulture being curious

Published by Raymond Loyal Photography

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

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