Family Hawks, Eagles (Accipitridae)


Cape Vulture (Gyps coprotheres)


French: Vautour chassefiente German: Kapgeier Spanish: Buitre de El Cabo
Other common names: Cape Griffon

Vultur Coprotheres

J. R. Forster

, 1798,

South Africa


Traditionally thought to form a species-group with G. himalayensis, G. indicus (with tenuirostris), G. rueppelli and G. fulvus, and formerly considered conspecific with G. fulvus. Recent genetic data, however, indicate that present species forms a clade with G. indicus and G. tenuirostris and that these three are sister to a clade comprising G. rueppelli and G. fulvus#R; this arrangement independently supported by study based on wider molecular sample from additional loci#R. An apparently mixed (and probably successful) pairing between present species and G. africanus was reported at last surviving colony in Namibia#R. Monotypic.


S Africa. Centred on SE Botswana and NE South Africa, and on Lesotho and E South Africa; locally in S Western Cape. Formerly bred also in Namibia, W & S Zimbabwe, W & S Mozambique (where now scarce) and Swaziland; rarely wandering N to Zambia.

Descriptive notes

95–110 cm; 7070–10,900 g, mean 9350 g; wingspan 228–255 cm. Pale plumage contrasts with dark spots along trailing edge of wing-coverts and dark flight-... read more


Generally silent except around nest, when gathering at carcasses and at roosts, and calls include a... read more


Open grassland, steppe and, historically, karooid vegetation, in the proximity of mountains for... read more

Food and feeding

Carrion and bone fragments of larger carcasses, mainly soft muscle and organ tissue; in much of range now reduced to feeding on dead sheep... read more


Laying Apr–Jul, but overall season lasts until Jan (or even Mar). Monogamous. Displays consist solely of mutual soaring close to nest... read more


Most remain within foraging range of c. 100 km of nesting and roosting colonies, but some evidence... read more

Status and conservation

ENDANGERED. CITES II. Has small population seemingly in continuing decline. Considered Vulnerable until 2015, when evidence of more rapid declines came to light, causing... read more

Recommended citation

Kemp, A.C., Kirwan, G.M., Christie, D.A. & Sharpe, C.J. (2020). Cape Vulture (Gyps coprotheres). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 27 February 2020).