The Bearded Vulture - King of The Mountain
What Is a Bearded Vulture?
The Bearded Vulture is a critically endangered scavenger bird.
Where Does The Bearded Vulture Live?
An isolated Bearded Vulture population is restricted to the Maloti-Drakensberg area in Kwazulu-Natal, South Africa, and Lesotho.
There is also a recovered population of the Bearded Vulture in Southern Europe and Northern Africa.
Why Are Bearded Vultures Red?
Their head, neck, chest, and most of their body grow progressively white when they are four years old and have previously undergone 1-2 moultings.
That is if they did not colour themselves due to their extensive bathing in iron oxide-containing bodies of water, which causes their feathers to turn rusty orange over time.
The cause for the coloration of the feathers from white to orange remains a mystery.
Why is The Bearded Vulture Endangered?
The main threats facing the Bearded Vulture are persecution for use in traditional medicine, unintentional poisoning from eating predator bait, and collisions with powerlines are the most significant risks threatening the population.
My Conservation Photo Story
I took a trip to Giants Castle in the Maloti-Drakensberg mountains to visit the Vulture Hide on the mountain ledge where Vultures feed.
I went to the Vulture Hide with bones provided by the rangers at Giants Castle main camp after paying the fee for a day's use of the hide.
I was hoping the Bearded Vulture would be present and the giant bird would land and feed on the presented bones.
The road to the site demanded a 4 x 4 vehicle, but the hide was only 5 kilometers from the main camp reception.
I arrived at the Vulture hide at 8:00 AM, and around 9:00 AM, the first adult Bearded Vulture flew into the skies before me.
I set up my camera and began taking photos of the Bearded Vulture in flight. It was a thrilling sight to see the glorious bird gliding through the air above me.
Unfortunately, it was not to be my day and none of the three Bearded Vultures who showed up on the day chose to land and feed on the bones. Bearded Vultures have developed a feeding technique that involves grabbing the larger bones in their claws, flying up to 100 meters in the air, and then dropping the bone so that it breaks into smaller, edible pieces.
By around 15:00 that afternoon, all the Bearded Vultures had disappeared, and I decided to pack up for the day. The outing was a great success, and I was satisfied with the display the Vultures and the other smaller animals had put on.
Project Vulture in South Africa is executing a plan to rehabilitate and conserve the Maloti-Drakensberg Bearded Vultures. You can view them in their nests with a "nest cam."
If you want to contribute to the conservation of the Bearded Vulture, then you can volunteer or donate to Wildlife Act.