The South African Bird Ringing Unit

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Longevity of the White-backed Vulture

Dane Paijmans(2016-01-04)

I hope you have all had a merry festive season full of family, friends and a good helping of bird watching on these warm summer days. We will get the longevity stories for this year started with some of our endangered vultures. First up is the White-backed Vulture (Gyps africanus). With an estimated global population of 270,000 individuals (which has decreased over 50% in the last 15 years) [ref] this species is quickly becoming one of great concern. Some of the major factors in this decline are; reduced food availability (carrion), hunting for trade (muti), persecution, powerline collisions and poisoning (this occurs when landowners attempt to poison livestock preditors with poisoned meat).

As a result of this decreased survival we have not recieved a new longevity record for this species in nearly 20 years (despite extensive ringing and monitoring). Our longevity record of 19 years did not have a cause of death recorded, but at this age it is likley natural as the captive individual recorded in Roberts 7 achieved a similar age. Of the 81 ringed birds recovered 20 collided/ or were electrocuted by powerlines, and 11 were poisoned. The ring recovories account for only a small number of total recovories, and the number of non-ringed birds being killed by these two factors are substantially more. If you feel you know of an older record please contact us at SAFRING with the details.
The image within this article is accredited to Joan Young and was linked from BirdPix.
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  Taxonomy   Maximum Longevity
  Order: Falconiformes
       Family:  Accipitridae
             Genus: Gyps
  19.8 years (cap) (Roberts 7)
  19.04 years (SAFRING)
  Species   Ring Number
  Gyps africanus G11587
  Common name   Sample size
 White-backed Vulture   Ringed: 5238  Retrapped: 367
  Recovered: 81  Total: 5686

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