Lappet-Faced Vulture

Lappet-Faced Vulture

Scientific Classification

Common Name
lappet-faced vulture
Genus Species
Torgos tracheliotus

Fast Facts

The lappet-faced vulture is a large bird with a heavy head and massive bill. It has mainly dark feathers and is easily identified by its bare pink head and large, fleshy lappets (folds of skin) on sides of its neck.
Approximately 100–105 cm (39.5–41.5 in.); wingspan 2.6 m (8.5 ft)
Up to 13.6 kg (30 lbs.)
Mainly feeds on carrion; prefers smaller dead animals such as gazelle, hares, etc.; will feed opportunistically on insects and small birds
Approximately 7 weeks
Clutch Size
1 egg
Sexual Maturity
Approximately 4–5 years
Life Span
20–50 years
Sub-Sahara Africa, Middle East, southern Arabia
Inhabits arid open country; into parts of mountain and semi-desert ranges
Global: Estimated at about 8,500 individuals
IUCN: Not listed
CITES: Appendix II
USFWS: Vulnerable

Fun Facts

  1. The lappet-faced vulture is one of the most aggressive of African birds. It possesses one of the strongest beaks, usually arriving last to the carcass due to its ability to tear off flesh (such as skin, tendons, and other coarse tissue) that is too tough for smaller scavengers. In fact, they are able to strip a small antelope carcass to the bone within 20 minutes.
  2. Because of their dominating size, they will often scare off or steal from smaller vultures.
  3. These vultures do not feed strictly on carrion; they have been known to sit by termite mounds or locust nests and eat them as they emerge from their holes.
  4. At other times, lappet-faced vultures will raid flamingo colonies, killing adults, young, and eating the eggs.
  5. They are usually solitary or live in pairs. Contrary to popular belief, they do not smell the carrion, but rather by watching the behavior of other birds, they are able to locate the food.
  6. Their featherless heads and necks help them to keep clean because they can shake off any sticky remains of their meals. The sun bakes off bacteria and parasites from the carcass since this the hardest part of the body to preen.
  7. For more information about raptors, explore the Raptors InfoBook.

Ecology and Conservation

The scavenging behavior of the lappet-faced vultures helps break down and recycle animal matter. They aid in the removal of carcasses when it begins to rot. Vulture eggs and young are prey for other predators such as crows.

Small, scattered breeding populations, habitat loss, and poison carcasses used by some farmers have all helped in diminishing the lappet-faced numbers.


Gotch, A.F. Birds - Their Latin Names Explained. Poole, Dorst: Blandford Press, 1981.

Perrins, C. Birds: Their Life, Their Ways, Their World. New York: The Reader's Digest Association, Inc. 1979.

Perrins, C. M. and A. L.A. Middleton, eds. The Encyclopedia of Birds. New York: Facts on File Pub. 1985.

Birdlife International: