Lunch Al Fresco - Vulture Style
13 January 2014
Along the road between Dodola and Goba, Ethiopia, we came across the spectacle shown below. Wherever one travels in Ethiopia one sees huge numbers of donkeys, generally of a very small race, being used as beasts of burden for every manner of cargo imaginable, often bearing loads which would seem impossible for so small an animal. I suspect that the lives of these creatures are neither long nor pleasant and one had obviously perished at the side of the road.
Three species of vultures were feeding on it, Hooded Vulture Necrosyrtes monachus, White-backed Vulture Gyps africanus and Rüppell's Vulture Gyps rueppelli. As can be seen in the picture below, the small Hooded Vulture has to wait its turn on the periphery before darting in to snatch whatever morsels it can before being driven off by the larger, more aggressive species.
It was quite incredible to see the sheer strength of the neck muscles of the large vultures. As they thrust into the carcass they were able to lift the head of the dead donkey clear off the ground.
No doubt, within a relatively short time the carcass would be reduced to nothing but bones. Too bad a Bearded Vulture Gypaetus barbatus would not be in an urban environment to take advantage of it.
Waiting patiently off to the side, anxious for a place at the table, was a Marabou Stork Leptoptilos crumenifer and several Pied Crows Corvus albus.