Desi – Hooded Vulture
Desi and his companion, Fred, were sold to WBS many years ago as a pair. Since we do not surgically sex our birds without good cause, they spent a number of years in one of our breeding mews under the assumption that they were a pair. As is necessary with many birds of prey, and exotic species we adopted a “wait and see” attitude. Finally, we decided that it was time to end the suspense. Upon surgically sexing both birds it was discovered that they were both males.
At that point we decided that even if they could not produce future generations for their species, they would make great education ambassadors. Even though Desi has attitude and is a challenge to work with, the crowds love him, and he is helping to perpetuate his species–just not in the way we originally expected.
Species: Hooded Vulture
Latin Name: Necrosyrtes monachus
Description: small vulture with reddish pink face that may become bluish when excited; dark brown with rather short, rounded tail; weak slender beak adapted for picking small morsels of meat from between ribs and bones; weak feet adapted for walking or running, not for clutching branches; long wings that allow them to soar for long periods; sometimes mistaken for the Lappet-faced vulture, but is only half the Lappet’s size; named for the ruff of down feathers around its neck
Sex: females larger than males
Age: 20-25 years in the wild
Weight: 4.5 lbs.
Habitat: open plains, savannas, forests, coastal areas and villages
Status: Has adapted to living in proximity to humans, and is tolerated by villagers as a “clean-up” committee; Swahili name is Tai
Range: range widely in Africa south of the Sahara; most numerous in West Africa
Behavior: sometimes found in large numbers, but usually solitary; mated pairs form a strong bond, roosting together outside the breeding season; usually roost close to their preferred breeding site; breed year round; mating takes place in trees, usually near the nest usually located 20-120 feet above ground; huge stick nests are constructed in their favored baobab trees; female lays one egg with reddish spots on a whitish base; incubation is 46 days, mainly by the female; chick is helpless and carefully guarded by both parents for 21 days; fledges at about 120 days; is still fed by parents until about one month after first flight
Diet: usually the first scavenger to arrive at a kill, but quickly driven aside because of its relatively small size, it is usually the last to eat at a kill; in towns and villages it has learned to search for food in refuse dumps; at seashores they feed at low tide on stranded or dead sea creatures; also eat grasshoppers, grubs and locusts
Vocalization: adults are silent; chicks cheep when begging for food