|Copyright: Petra van der Linden (lovebirds)
|Date Taken: 2011-03-06|
|Camera: CANON 1Ds Mark III|
|Exposure: f/5.6, 1/800 seconds|
|More Photo Info: [view]|
|Photo Version: Original Version|
|Date Submitted: 2011-03-07 8:52|
|[Note Guidelines] Photographer's Note|
Adults are 85-107 cm (34-42 in) long, with a wingspan of around 2.6 metres (8.5 ft), and a weight that ranges from 6.4 to 9 kg (14 to 20 lb). Both sexes are alike: mottled brown or black overall with a whitish-brown underbelly and thin, dirty-white fluff covering the head and neck. The base of the neck has a white collar, the eye is yellow or amber, the crop patch deep chocolate-brown. Silent as a rule, they become vocal at the nest and when at a carcass, squealing a great deal.
Rüppell's Vultures are highly social, roosting, nesting, and gathering to feed in large flocks. They can travel fast at need, cruising at up to 35 kilometres per hour (22 mph), and will fly as far as 150 kilometres (93 mi) from a nest site to find food.
Rüppell's Vultures commonly fly at altitudes ranging up to 6,000 metres (20,000 ft). The birds have a specialized variant of the hemoglobin alphaD subunit; this protein has a high affinity for oxygen, which allows the species to take up oxygen efficiently despite the low partial pressure in the upper troposphere. A Rüppell's Vulture was confirmed to have been ingested by a jet engine of an airplane flying over Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire on November 29, 1973 at an altitude of 11,000 metres (36,100 ft). In August 2010 a Rüppell's Vulture escaped a bird of prey site in Scotland, prompting warnings to pilots in the area to keep an eye out due to the danger of collision.
Rüppell's Vultures are creatures of the more arid and mountainous areas of Africa: particularly semi-desert and the fringes of deserts. They roost on inaccessible rock ledges if these are available, or in trees, usually Acacia. When thermal updrafts start to develop enough lift, about two hours after sunrise, Rüppell's Vultures leave the roost and begin to patrol over the plains, using their exceptionally keen eyesight to find large animal carcasses, or carnivores which have made a kill. They will wait, several days if necessary, until a carnivore leaves a carcass. They have been known to take live prey on occasion, but this is rare.
Rüppell's Vultures have several adaptations to their diet and are specialized feeders even among the Old World vultures of Africa. They have an especially powerful bill and, after the most attractive soft parts of a carcass have been consumed, they will continue with the hide, and even the bones, gorging themselves until they can barely fly. They have backward-facing splines on the tongue to help remove meat from bone.
Since first being assessed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature in 1998, populations of Rüppell's Vulture have declined. The species has been listed with an IUCN Red List status of "near threatened" since 2007 and the IUCN predicts that populations of the species will continue to decline
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