DESI – HOODED VULTURE
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Hatch Year: Unknown
Arrival to WBS: 1995
Reason for Residence: hatched in captivity
Desi arrived at World Bird Sanctuary with another Hooded Vulture named Fred in 1995 as a breeding pair of birds. We had been told that Fred was a female (and was originally named Lucy). Being an endangered species the hope was to be able to breed these birds in captivity to help their numbers, however as you may have guessed that didn’t work very well. It can be very difficult to tell the sex of a vulture by size or behavior, and at the time we didn’t have easy access to DNA based sexing through blood work or feathers. After several years however of no breeding success we finally did the bloodwork and “Lucy” was renamed Fred, and both birds moved to our education department.
Once manned to a glove Desi quickly became a phenomenal education ambassador, soaring over crowds during programs with his massive 5.5 ft wingspan and delighting audiences with his antics as he skips about on stage following his trainers on walks. Desi has been known to cue his trainers when he is ready to fly, by lifting his wings and waiting for the glove to be presented. He has the staff very well trained. Desi has been instrumental to World Bird Sanctuary’s mission to help teach people about the importance of vultures in our ecosystems as well as for human health as a whole, and during the summer can oftentimes be seen in our Amazing Animal Encounters.
SPECIES: HOODED VULTURE
CONSERVATION STATUS: CRITICALLY ENDANGERED
Hooded Vultures been up-listed from its previous IUCN status of endangered to critically endangered, since the species is going through a very steep decline in population, owing to various factors including poisoning, hunting, habitat loss and degradation of habitat. Hunting is the most well-known threat to the species, however, poisoning has been shown to have the highest impact on the population. Poisoning of the species has been both unintentional and intentional, with unintentional poisoning being caused through the poisoning of other animals which the species feeds on. Hunting on the other hand is caused by vultures being used by people in traditional medicine and cultural beliefs and as a food source.
Scientific 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: up to 25 years in the wild
Weight: 4.5 lbs.
Habitat: open plains, savannas, forests, coastal areas and villages
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
– Hooded Vultures can change the color of their face and neck based on their mood and current blood flow! A pale white vulture is likely sleepy or scared, and a bright pink face indicates excitement.