Cape Vulture (Gyps coprotheres)



The Cape Vulture is an Old World Vulture of the Gyps genus. Another name attributed to this vulture is Cape Griffon. At sizes between 95-105 cm, a weight of up to 9.5 kg and wingspans between 228-250 cm this bird really is a large vulture. The name says it all, this bird is a native to Southern Africa.


Also once a rather common vulture, changes in lifestock management lead to a decrease in available carcases and carrion subsequently leading to a decline in numbers for the Cape Vulture.



Description - Characteristics: Cape Vulture – Cape Griffon


Breeding – Clutch – Measurements – Habitat – Diet - Threats



Order: Accipitriformes

Family: Accipitridae

Genus: Gyps

Species: Cape Vulture


Scientific Name: Gyps coprotheres


Names and Synomys of the Cape Vulture


Name in German: Kapgeier

Name in Französisch: Vautour chassefiente

Name in Niederländisch: Kapsegier

Name in Spanish: Buitre del Cabo

Name in Italienisch: Grifone del Capo

Name in Finnisch: Kapinkorppikotka

Name in Schwedisch: Kapgam

Name in Polnisch: Sęp przylądkowy

Name in Russisch: Капский гриф


Description of the Cape Vulture


Distribution: Afrotropical. Endemic to South Africa, central and eastern South Africa, Lesotho, adjacent southernmost Mozambique, north and east Botswana, Namibia.


Movements: Adults are mostly sedentary, immatures are nomadic. Forages over distances of up to 30 km.


Habitat: Mountain cliffs providing suitable ledges for breeding and roosting. Not to be found in dense woodland or forest. Settles in sea levels of up to 3,000 + m.


Behaviour: Gregarious birds. Colonial breeder. Search flights in groups over larges distances. At carcases Cape Vultures socialise with other vulture species. With its long neck the Cape Vulture is able to reach deep into the inside of a cadaver. In a group Cape Vultures are bound to adhere a pecking order. Each member of the group defends ist rank agressively. Cape Vultures always take a bath after feeding thereby cleaning the bare parts at neck and head. Because of them being sociable, they tend to breed in colonies of up to 100 breeding pairs. Search flights can take them over 100 km from base. Immature vultures form bachelor groups outside the breeding colonies.


cape vulture egg
Egg of the Cape Vulture - Source: by Didier Descouens - Eigenes Werk, CC BY-SA 4.0,




Size: 95-105 cm

Tail: 30-35 cm

Weight: 7.000-9.500 g

Wingspan: 228-250 cm

Wing: 685-760 mm


Voice: generally silent, except when being at breeding colonie, roosts and carcases.




Sexually Mature: probably not before 3rd to 4th year, lifelong monogamous breeding pair.

Mating: Coincides with nest building.


Clutches per breeding season1 clutch

Breeding: generally between April and to January, there are also clutches starting in April and lasting to July


Nest: Small nest platform made of sticks, grass, heath, bracken and other plants available in the surroundings. Nest measuring 45-100 cm across and 20-30 cm deep; lined with grass and leaves. Nest sits on open or overhung ledges.


Clutch: 1 egg

Egg: white elliptical egg with reddish brown or brown staints.


Egg Measurements and Weights

Length x Width: 90.8x68.8 mm

Weight: ≈ ??? g


Recurrent clutch: no recurrent clutches, not even with early loss of clutch (Balsac, cited in W. Fischer).


Incubation: ≃ 55 days on average, usually between 53-59 days; both parents share the task of incubating.


Fledging: the young Cape Vulture fledges after 140 days.


Dependency: Assumably the young vulture will be fed and educated by ist parents for a longer period. Though, no data firm data are available.





Food: The Vulture processes cadaver and depends on the abundance of large carcases and carrion. Consumes muscle and guts from cadaver, and even bones.


Longevity: unknown.


Mortality: unknown.


Threats: Rare and endangered species. Many threats. The changes in how live stock is managed lead to a decline in available cadaver. The Cape Vulture also fells victim to power lines and also targeted poisoning. Persecution because the vulture is used for traditional healing methods, administering small amounts of vulture brain are said to heal people.








Brown, Leslie, Die Greifvögel, Ihre Biologie und Ökologie, Paul Parey Verlag Hamburg und Berlin, 1979

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, 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, 1980




External Links



Image Credits


Egg of the Griffon Vulture: