Hooded Vulture (Necrosyrtes monachus)

Author: Bibitayo Ayobami Owolabi. Department of Wildlife and Ecotourism Management. Osun State University, Osogbo, Nigeria. bibitayo.owolabi@uniosun.edu.ng. ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-0136-6720

The hooded vulture (Necrosyrtes monachus) is an Old-World vulture in the order Accipitriformes. It is native to sub-Saharan Africa, where it has a widespread distribution with populations in southern, East and West Africa. It typically scavenges on carcasses of wildlife and domestic animals. 

Description.

The hooded vulture has a grey to black “hood” and a pinkish-white head that flushes crimson when agitated. It has dark brown body plumage that is pretty consistent. It has small tail feathers and large wings for soaring. They measure 62–72 cm in length, have a wingspan of 155–180 cm, and weigh 1.5–2.6 kg. Although females have longer eyelashes than males, both sexes have similar appearances. Juveniles have a purple gloss to their body feathers and are darker and plainer than adults.

Figure 1: The Hooded vulture (Necrosyrtes monachus) feeding in an abattoir. (Photos: B. Owolabi)

Nesting, breeding and behaviour.

It breeds in a stick nest in tall trees in much, laying two eggs. Birds may form loose colonies. The population is mostly resident and sedentary, rarely moving more than 200 km.

Distribution

The Hooded vulture lives in sub-Saharan Africa, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and other countries, in a range of habitats, from semi-deserts to coastal lowlands though to forests and open woodlands. It is most common in savannahs and grassland, especially near human settlements, as villages and towns are a good source of food. In some of Tanzania’s and Kenya’s sparsely populated grasslands, they settle near cattle ranches, picking up carrion and scraps from around farms.

Habits and Lifestyle

The Hooded vulture is very abundant and often travels in a flock. In much of this bird’s range, there are always a few to be seen at almost any time of the day soaring in the sky. Its powerful toes are suited for walking and running, but not for the catching of prey. More courageous than most other vultures, hooded vultures do approach humans.

Breeding

Hooded vultures are monogamous and pairs remain together for life. Courtship displays are not remarkable, however, sometimes the male swoops down to the female, or it dances in circles on the ground with its claws held out. The breeding season varies depending on the location, but the timing is usually such that eggs are laid during or immediately after the local rainy season, so that there will be a reliable supply of food. The nest is built up in a tree (which is often a Baobab or Cola gigantea tree), and reused year by year, and is well lined throughout the nesting season with fresh vegetation. Incubation is for around 48 to 54 days, by both parents, though mainly by the female, who is fed by the male at the nest.

Figure 2: The Hooded vulture (Necrosyrtes monachus) in flight. (Photos: B. Owolabi)

Threats to the population

The increased use of poisoning, as well as hunting for traditional medicine, as bushmeat, and purposeful mis-selling as chicken, has resulted in a drastic reduction in the number of Hooded vultures.

Hooded vulture population.

The overall Hooded vulture population, according to the IUCN Red List, is estimated to be at 197,000 individuals. This species is currently classed as Critically Endangered (CR), and its population is declining.

References

IUCN., 2007. The IUCN red list of threatened species. Version 2015-4. International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, Switzerland.

Lepage D (2006). “Bird Checklist of birds in Nigeria” Checklists of birds of the world. Avibase. Retrieved 27 April 2007

Owolabi, BA; Odewumi, OS; Agbelusi, EA. (2020) Perceptions on Population Decline and Ethno-cultural Knowledge of Hooded Vulture (Necrosyrtes monachus) in Southwest States of Nigeria. Vulture News Vol. 78 (2020) Pp 11-19 http//dx.doi.org/10.4314/vulnew.v78i1.2

Owolabi, B.A; Odewumi, O.S; Agbelusi, E.A. (2021) Stratified Analysis of Threats Pattern of Hooded Vulture (Necrosytes monachus) and Palm-Nut Vulture (Gypohierax angiogensis) In South-West Nigeria. Journal of Research in Forestry, Wildlife & Environment Vol. 13(1) Pp 75-84. http://www.ajol.info/index.php/jrfwe print ISBN: 2141-1778