Though common in The Gambia, the Hooded Vulture is considered critically endangered globally. Here we look a little closer at this intriguing bird.
Standing in the manicured gardens of my hotel I wait patiently. First one and then another large dark bird descends and before long the branches of every tree in sight are filing up with Hooded Vultures. An ominous sight.
They too wait patiently for the daily, late morning ritual. Watching. Waiting. As soon as the first piece of meat is thrown into the air, they become a frenzied throng of blurring feathers. The vultures being feed at the Senegambia Hotel really is quite a sight and one well worth catching.
Though very common in The Gambia, the species is actually considered as critically endangered globally. In fact 9 out of the 11 species of vulture in Africa are “Red Listed” by the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature), either as Near Threatened, Vulnerable, Endangered, or Critically Endangered, and many regional populations face the immediate threat of extinction.
Status: Common (but the species is considered as endangered globally)
With its small head, narrow bill, scruffy looking dark brown feathers and red face, the hooded vulture is not the prettiest of birds but it is a fascinating bird to watch nevertheless and its wing span at 175cm is impressive. It is much smaller though, at a height of around 70cm, than some other vultures found in The Gambia including the Griffon and Lappet-Faced vultures.
Although mainly silent it does have a high-pitched squeak and produces a squeaky whistle around the nest.
Where & When
They have a wide variety of habitats but are particularly abundant around fishing villages.
They are omnivores feeding on fruits, insects, carcasses and even excrement. They spend much of their time on the wing from first light but come home to roost relatively early.
Have you seen the feeding of the vultures? If yes, we’d love to hear from you and see any photos or even videos that you might have. For information on our birding holidays in The Gambia, please visit our website.