'Mwala' - Palm Nut Vulture
It breeds in forest and savannah across sub-Saharan Africa, usually near water, its range coinciding with that of the oil and raffia palms. It is quite approachable, like many African vultures, and can be seen near habitation, even on large hotel lawns in the tourist areas of countries such as the Gambia, although it will never wander too close!
This is a nearly unmistakable bird as an adult. At 60 cm (2.0 ft) long and 150 cm (4.9 ft) across the wings, this is the smallest Old World vulture. Its plumage is all white except for black areas in its wings and tail. In maturity and in the wild, it has a red patch around each eye. The juvenile, which takes 3–4 years to mature, is brown with yellow eye-patches. In flight, this species resembles an eagle more than a typical vulture, and it can sustain flapping flight, so it does not depend on thermals.
Unusually for birds of prey, the palm-nut vulture feeds mainly on the fleshy fruit-husks of the oil palm and on the palm-fruits of Raffia palm. These fruits make up over 60% of the adult bird's diet and over 90% of the juvenile bird's diet. It has also been recorded to feed on crabs (both freshwater and marine), molluscs, frogs, fish, locusts, small mammals, even reptiles’ eggs and hatchlings, and it has been known to occasionally attack domestic poultry and feed on carrion.
Breeding pairs construct large stick nests high up in tall trees and will often exhibit a strong attachment to the nest site. They may stay at the nesting site for an entire year. Where Raphia Palms are present, breeding pairs will build a nest at the base of the palm fronds. At the beginning of the breeding season, pairs soar together in an aerial display of rolling and diving, much more acrobatic than most vultures. During each breeding cycle, a single, white and brown egg is laid, which is incubated by both sexes, over a period of four to six weeks. Normally around 85 to 90 days after hatching, the young brown chicks will fled.
All our birds are with us at Exmoor Owl and Hawk Centre to help us all appreciate the amazing relationship between mankind and our natural environment and to enable us to understand their unique personalities and hunting styles..... a reflection of our own lives perhaps. We enjoy sharing our Friends at our Centre, to encourage all our visitors to rediscover their connection with nature and a healthy environment - without which mankind is unable to survive.
A life without the natural world is no life at all.