The International Vulture Awareness Day takes place each and every year on the first Saturday in September. This day is all about promoting an awareness of the importance of vultures and the vital niche role they play in the ecosystem.
Globally vultures are the most endangered group of birds. And yet, without them, the world without vultures would be a foul-smelling place filled with disease and rotting carcasses!
Here are 10 facts about vultures that you may not know:
- There are 23 Vulture species in the world.
- South Africa is home to nine of these vulture species.
- In many countries, people have set up vulture restaurants or feeding sites where carcasses can be left out for vultures. These restaurants help to ensure that vultures have enough food and can help them to avoid contaminated carcasses. The Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre (HESC) boasts one of these vulture restaurants! We regularly get visits from hooded vultures, cape vultures, white-backed vultures, lappet-faced vultures and we sometimes even see the rare white-headed vulture.
- Vultures are faced with a range of threats such as poisoning, persecution, electrocution and collision with power-lines, drowning in farm reservoirs in drier parts of the country, shortage of safe food supplies and loss of suitable habitat.
- Vultures are able to consume carcasses that may have rotted so much as to be dangerous for other animals. This gives vultures a unique and important ecological niche because they help prevent the spread of diseases from old, rotting corpses.
- Vultures have bare heads and often bare necks so that when they feed on rotting carcasses, bacteria and other parasites cannot burrow into their feathers to cause infections. This allows the birds to stay healthier while feeding on material that would easily infect other animals.
- Most vultures are social and several species can often be seen feeding together on the same carcass. Because many species of vultures are social, vultures are highly affected by poisoning and environmental contaminants and over a hundred birds can be killed at just one poisoned carcass.
- Because vultures have weak feet and legs, they do not carry prey back to their chicks. Instead, they will gorge at a carcass and regurgitate food from their crop to feed their young.
- Vultures are found on every continent except Australia and Antarctica.
- Vultures are able to strip a carcass in just a few hours.