White-headed vulture perched on a wooden log and leaned over.

White-headed vulture

Trigonoceps occipitalis
Conservation Status IUCN
Critically Endangered

For more info on classifications visit

endangered list labels critically endangered
endangered list critically endangered sign
  • paws icon
    Animal Class
    Aves, Accipitriformes
  • house icon
    Hot, dry savannas at low altitude.
  • apple icon
    Carnivore – White-headed vultures are primarly Scavengers, but they have been known to hunt live prey.
  • location icon
    Conservation Status
    Critically endangered – population declines across its range.
  • world icon
    Estimated at just 5,500
  • Introduction

    White-headed vultures fly lower than other vultures and will generally arrive first to a carcass.

    White-headed vultures get their name from the covering of white, downy feathers on their head. They are one of the most colourful, of the Old-World Vultures. Bare pink skin covers their face, cheeks, eye ring, and chin, and shades into lilac on the neck. Their body, tail and wing feathers are black with white feathers covering their stomach and thighs leading to pink legs.

    White-headed vultures can soar for hours in search of food. They are slightly different to other vultures as they are much shier and will avoid the feeding frenzy at a carcass and feed alone at its edge. They will roost in acacia trees and are somewhat solitary, in comparison to the social nature of other Old-World Vultures.

    SIZE: White-headed vultures have a wingspan of over 2 meters. The females are larger than the males reaching up to 85cm in body length and weighing up to 5kg.

  • Threats/ Conservation

    Critically Endangered

    Decline in population is thought to be due to the reduction in populations of mammals and wild ungulates including the agricultural intensification converting its habitat. *
    Deliberate poisoning to stop vultures drawing attention to poaching activities as well as capture for use in traditional medicines have contributed to the populations decline.

    *IUCN, 2006

    Emerald Park conservation contribution:

    White-headed vultures are part of the EAZA Ex-situ Programme (EEP). This which means that their population is managed to ensure that there are heathy populations of animals within EAZA member zoos and for reintroduction in the future.

  • Habitat

    White-headed vultures have an extremely large range throughout sub-Saharan Africa.
    They prefer to live at low altitudes in dry, hot, open savannahs. It will avoid highly wooded habitats and areas that have a high human population.

  • Fun Facts

    White-headed vultures are scavengers carrying out an important role in the ecosystem. By eating rotting meat, they help to prevent the growth of pests and disease ensuring the ecosystem stays healthy.

    In the dry season females will lay a single egg that is incubated for approximately 55 days in nests built on top of Acacia or Baobab trees.