Lapped-faced Vulture (Torgos tracheliotus)



The Lapped-faced Vulture is a huge, bulky Old World Vulture of the Torgos genus. Depending on the author, this vulture can also be classified under the Aegypius genus, thereby acknowledging its relationship with the Monk Vulture. This vulture is also knonw und the synonyms African Black Vulture, King Vulture and Nubian Vulture.


The Lapped-faced Vulture is mainly Afrotropical and only marginally breeds (as a extremely rare species) in the Palearctic. Its Palearctic distribution is mostly concentrated to the Atlas mountains (Algeria, Morocco), southern Tunis, Arabia (Saudi Arabia, Oman, Yemen, United Arab Emirates) and Israel. In the Afrotropical region it is distributed from south of the sub-Saharan zone southwards, in East Africa and further to Southern Africa.


This vulture might be confused with the smaller Hooded Vulture and the Monk Vulture.


lapped-faced vulture
Lapped-faced Vulture - source: Marion_Smith/agency iStock


Description - Characteristics: (African) White-headed Vulture


Breeding – Clutch – Measurements – Habitat – Diet - Threats



Order: Accipitriformes

Family: Accipitridae

Genus: Trigonoceps

Species: White-headedd Vulture


Scientific Name: Trigonoceps occipitalis


Names and Synomys of the White-headed Vulture


Name in German: Wollkopfgeier

Name in French: Vautour à tête blanche

Name in Dutch: Witkopgier

Name in Spanish: Buitre Cabeciblanco

Name in Italian: Aavviltoio testabianca

Name in Finnish: Kirjokorppikotka

Name in Danish: Hvidhovedet Grib

Name in Swedish: Vithuvad gam

Name in Polish: Sęp białogłowy

Name in Russian: Африканский белогорлый гриф

Name in Afrikaans: Witkopaasvoël

Name in Swahili: Tumbusi Kichwa-cheupe


Description of the White-headed Vulture


Distribution: Afrotropical. Endemic to sub-saharan Africa: Senegal, Gambia, Guinea-Bisseau, from southern Mali, Upper Volta, northern Ivory Coast eastwards to southern Sudan, Ethiopia, western Somalia, south through East Africa to Zimbabwe, southern Angola, northern Namibia, Botswana, eastern parts of South Africa and Swaziland.


Movements: Mostly nomadic movements from immatures.


Habitat: Savannah, thornbush, lightly wooded grassland, forages also on open countryside and semi-desert areas; sea-levels of up to 4,000 m.


Behaviour: Solitary, breeding als single pair. No more than 8 individuals at carcases. Search flights to detect useful carcases. After detecting a carcas the vulture glides down and firstly perches on next tree. White-headed Vultures love to feed on carcases without any company of other vultures. When feeding they take a chunk off the carcass and than walk to the side to consume.


Field Characteristics: Dieser große afrikanische Geier gehört zu den buntesten Geiern überhaupt. Armschwingen, Bauchgefieder, Hosen und Kropfschild sind weiß. Das übrige Gefieder ist dunkel-schwarzbraun. Hals rötlich, nur der Unterhals ist weiß bedunt. Hinterkopf weiß bedunt. Weißer Rand an den Flügeldecken. Halskragen aus kurzen Federn.


Schnabel: rot.

Wachshaut: blau


Läufe: rot.


Iris: braungelb.




Size: 72-82 cm

Tail: 27-30 cm

Weight: 3,300-5,300 g

Wingspan: 207-223 cm


♂: 582 mm

♀: 600-612 mm


Voice: mostly silent, utters squeaks, hisses and grunts..




Sexually mature: Probably not before 3rd to 4th year.

Mating: Monogamous breeding pair, lifelong pair; mating coincides with nest building.


Clutches per breeding season1 clutch

Breeding: depends on geographical region, in general December to September, mostly February to March: Sudan from November to December, Somalia from Oktober, Kenya from July, Tanzania (Usambara-mountains) from June, Zimbabwe from August, South Africa from May.


Nest: Mostly large platform made from sticks measuring 80-170 cm across and 20-60 cm deep. Often conspicuously in crown of high trees. Lined with grass. Colonial, nest in the top of thorny trees but also in steep cliffs.

Neststandort: der Wollkopfgeier brütet nicht in Kolonien. Seinen Horst errichtet er auf dornigen Bäumen und dort in der Wipfelregion. In felsigen Gegenden werden Horste auch in den Nischen von Steilwänden angelegt.



Clutch: 1 egg

Egg: elliptical whit egg and brown stains.


Egg Measurements and Weights

Length x Width: 82.0x65.0 mm

Weight: ≈ ??? g


Recurrent clutches: no data recorded.


Incubation: ≃ 43-54 Tage, both parents share the task of incubating.


Fledging: Chicken is fed by both parents. Fledging after c. 110-120 days.


Dependency: Most probably the young White-headed Vulture is cared for by the parents for a longer period; though, there are no firm data available.





Food: The White-headed Vultures mainly depends on the abundance of mostly large carcases. Also lifes of freshly cut Flamingos, small mammals, lizzards, dead fish being washed up; termites, locusts if available. From carcases everything is processed except for the skin.


Longevity: unknown.


Mortality: unknown.


Threats: Loss of habitat because of changes introduced in how agricultural and forestal areas are being managed. Targeted poisoning by laying out poisoned carcases.






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




External Links



Image Credits


Lapped-faced Vulture - source: Marion_Smith/agency iStock