Kenya Birds

Palm-nut Vulture


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Palm-nut Vulture

Photograph(s) Copyright ŠP&H HARRIS

Gypohierax angolensis

Other Names

  English Vulturine Fish Eagle, South African Fish Eagle   French Palmiste africain   German Palmgeier   Spanish Buitre Palmero   Swedish Palmgam   Dutch Palmgier   Italian Avvoltoio delle palme

World: Africa: occurs from Senegambia east to the Kenyan coast and then S to Angola and NE South Africa. Avoids the arid SW and much of interior Tanzania.

Kenya: Its distribution in Kenya marks the NE limit of its range. Found along the coast and the Tana River with a second distribution N and E of Mt Kilimanjaro NE to Kibwezi and Tsavo West.

Despite its name the Palm-nut Vulture probably isn't a vulture at all. Some authorities (Zimmerman et al) consider it to be a vulturine eagle, others (Lewis and Pomeroy) place it with the vultures, while the Handbook of the Birds of the World says it is a "Monotypic genus, apparently intermediate between fish-eagles and vultures! As the name suggests these birds feed on Raphia and Elaeis palm fruit but will also take invertebrates, fish and carrion. When feeding on palm fruit they hang upside down below the fruit, pull it off the tree with their beaks and then hold it in their feet to eat it. Interestingly they have started to use a similar technique for taking carrion at game lodges. At Samburu Lodge the staff bait a branch to attract Leopard, they hang a goat haunch below an angled branch and the Leopards lie along the branch and haul the haunch up to feed on. The Palm-nut Vultures have developed the habit of hanging below the branch, using their palm fruit technique to enable them to pull off strips of meat.

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