Rüppell's Vulture (Gyps rueppelli)



Rüppell's Vulture 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. 


rueppells vulture
Rüppell's Vulture


Description - Characteristics: Rüppell’s Vulture


Breeding – Clutch – Measurements – Habitat – Diet - Threats



Order: Accipitriformes

Family: Accipitridae

Genus: Gyps

Species: Rüppell’s Vulture


Scientific Name: Gyps rüppelli


Names und Synonyms of Rüppell’s Vulture


Name in German: Sperbergeier

Name in French: Vautour de Rüppell

Name in Dutch: Rüppells Gier

Name in Italian: Grifone di Rüppell

Name in Spanish: Buitre Moteado

Name in Portuguese: Grifo de Rüppell

Name in Finnish: Suomukorppikotka

Name in Czech: Buitre Moteado

Name in Slowakian: Buitre Moteado

Name in Hungarian: Buitre Moteado

Name in Croatian: Pjegavi sup

Name in Serbian: Pegavi sup

Name in Greek: Στικτός Γύπας

Name in Danish: Rüppells Grib, Svannengrib

Name in Swedish: Rüppellgam

Name in Polish: Sęp plamisty

Name in Russian: Африканский сип

Name in Arabian: نسر روبل

Name in Hebrew: נשר דרומי


Description of Rüppell’s Vulture


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 heights of


rueppells vulture
Rüppell's Vulture




Size: 85-97 cm

Schwanzlänge: 26-30 cm

Weight: 8.000-9.000 g, gut genährt bis zu 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.


Sexually Mature: Rüppell’s Vultures first become sexually mature after 5-7 years.

Mating: Monogamous breeding pairs, mating usually begins prior to nest construction. East Africa as of November, West Africa from October to May, Ethiopian highlands mostly from June. In General mating and nest building is also possible in September.


Clutches per Breeding Season1 clutch




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.

Neststandort - Brutrevier: die Horste werden in Felsnischen in Steilwänden oder auf Bäumen angelegt.


rueppells vulture
Rüppell's Vulture
rueppells vulture egg
Egg of Rüppell's Vulture - Source: by Didier Descouens - Eigenes Werk, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=16928406


Clutch: (rarely 2) 1 Egg

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


Egg Measurements:: 86,5x63,4 mm

Egg Weight: 204,7 g

Recurrent Clutches: ???.


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.


rueppells vulture feeding
Rüppell's Vulture feeding on carcas




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
Rüppell's Vulture feeding




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


External Links


Vultures Conservation Foundation - European Vulture Protection and Conservation


Image Credits


Egg of the Griffon Vulture - Source: by Didier Descouens - Eigenes Werk, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=16928406



rueppells vulture
Rüppell's Vulture