Family Hawks, Eagles (Accipitridae)

Critically Endangered

White-backed Vulture (Gyps africanus)


French: Vautour africain German: Weißrückengeier Spanish: Buitre dorsiblanco africano
Other common names: African White-backed Vulture

Gyps africanus


, 1865,

Sennar, Sudan


Closely related to G. bengalensis, with which has been considered conspecific; these two sometimes partitioned off in genus Pseudogyps, on grounds of usually having 12 (not 14) rectrices. An apparently mixed (and probably successful) pairing between present species and G. coprotheres was reported at last surviving Namibian colony of latter species#R. Monotypic.


Extreme S Mauritania and Senegambia E to S & E Sudan, Eritrea and Ethiopia, and S through E Africa to Namibia and N & E South Africa.

Descriptive notes

94 cm; 4150–7200 g, mean 5450 g; wingspan 218 cm. White lower back and underwing-coverts conspicuous against dark brown plumage and black skin on neck and head of adult... read more


Generally silent. Emits squealing and chittering sounds at carcasses, where dominant individuals... read more


Various open woodlands, savannas and steppes; absent only from extreme desert and dense forest.

Food and feeding

Carrion and bone fragments of larger carcasses, mainly soft muscle and organ tissue. Usually gregarious, feeding and fighting amid a hectic... read more


Laying usually at start of dry season: Oct–Jan in W & NE Africa, all months in E Africa, and Apr–Jun in C & S Africa.... read more


Sedentary in many areas, but in W Africa moves N in Jul–Sept wet season to less densely... read more

Status and conservation

CRITICALLY ENDANGERED. Not considered of conservation concern until 2007, after which its threat status has been successively elevated, becoming Critically Endangered in 2015... read more

Recommended citation

Kemp, A.C., Christie, D.A., Kirwan, G.M., Garcia, E.F.J. & Sharpe, C.J. (2020). White-backed Vulture (Gyps africanus). 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 24 February 2020).