Now Dat One Ugly Motha’ Vulcha’, Boiii!: AfrrrEEka’s Lappet-faced Vulture…
One of the entrants to this year’s HBW World Bird Photo Contest that caught my attention (and indeed, that of the judges as it was awarded “Honourable Mention” - Oooerrr!) was the first pic in the above collage entitled “Instant" by the Swaziland-based European photographer Philip Perry. A veritable amazeballs with a side of awesomesauce of an action-shot, the photo portrays a Lappet-faced Vulture attacking a Golden Jackal. “A bird attacking a jackal?!” I hear you cry. “HELL YEAH, BOIII!”. So if, like me, you need to know more, read on…
The Snap Skinny:
Of the teeth-taloned-tacular image, Perry himself had this to say:
"The lappetfaced vulture had been sitting on a gnu carcass, keeping dozens of other vultures at bay (Ruppell’s & Whitebackeds). When along came a golden jackal. He tried to take possession of the food source. But was immediately attacked by the lappetfaced. The vulture used a foot to squash the jackals hindquarters right down to the ground and threaten it with its massive beak. Quickly the jackal realised its gross misjudgement and then ran off at great speed into the far distance of Tanzania’s serengeti."
The Bird Blurb:
Like most birds of prey, the vulture possesses that distinct “angry” appearance that suggests it’s already so pissed off it’ll tear into you quicker than a fat kid with a Giant Kit Kat if you so much as respire too loudly in it’s presence. This, by the looks of things, goes doubly so for the Lappet-faced Vulture (Torgos tracheliotos).
Like many of his vulture cousins, the LFV has a bald head; a feature that supposedly developed due to the difficulty arising from trying to clean blood and other carcassy fluids from any feathers growing in this particular area. However, the LFV very much ups the ante in the balding-beauty stakes by sporting a rather fetching expanse of excess pink-coloured skin (lappets) on the sides of it’s head which, lets be honest, not-so-remotely resembles a human foreskin. Yup, one ugly motha’ vulcha’. True dat.
What the LFV lacks in beauty, however, it more than makes up for in brawn; with a wingspan of 2.5-3m (8-10ft) and weighing up to 9.4kg (20.7lbs) it is the largest and most powerful of all Africa’s vultures. It is also the most aggressive of them all and is known to fend off other vultures and even jackals from coveted carrion. In the case of smaller vultures this does, however, prove a beneficial system as the LFV is strong enough to tear through the tougher hides and muscles of larger mammals that the others would otherwise be unable to penetrate. (*Giggles* Haha, see what I did there?… Foreskin… Penetr… Ack, fine! NEVER MIND!…)
Although primarily a scavenging bird and opting to feed mostly from animal carcasses, the LFV will occasionally attack young and weak live animals or prey on the eggs of other birds for a feeding. It’s even known to opportunistically feed on termites and locusts (Hmm, s’like, sooo Hakuna Matata, innit bruv!)
The Population Predicament:
So, Bruce-Willis baldness and butchness aside, where does this beauty queen of Hades sit in the conservation court? It seems not as well as would be liked. Accidental poisoning and purposeful persecution across it’s range is believed, in particular, to have had a detrimental effect on population numbers. A rising scarcity of carcasses and increases in nest disturbances from road constructions and off-road vehicle movements are also thought to be significant factors. This has led to the Lappet-faced Vulture gaining itself an IUCN Red List status of Vulnerable.
So then, much like it’s emotional state following the realisation that it is, effectively, Motha’ Nacha’s Biggest Dickhead.
(I mean, seriously Nature, what’s with those lappets?!…)
- Check out ARKive and Wikipedia for more info and awesome pics/links
- Additional Image Credits: Image 2 - ©Vittorrio Ricci; Image 3 - ©Andy Warn; Image 4 - ©Mark Hamblin; Image 5 - ©Unkown; Image 6 - ©Elsen Karstad; Image 7 © Unkown; Image 8 - ©Daniele Pralong(?); Image 9 - ©Jerry Pank; Image 10 - ©Unkown