Gyps rueppelliiRüppell's griffon

Geographic Range

Rüppell's griffon vulture (Gyps rueppellii) are found in parts of the Ethiopian biogeographic region. Gyps rueppellii occupy the region from Senegambia to Eritrea, with some native range spreading farther southeast (Clark and Davies, 2018; “Rüppell’s Vulture”, 2017). Their native range extends from Northwest to Northeast Africa approximately between latitudes 5°S and 20°N (Clark and Davies, 2018). (Clark and Davies, 2018; "Rüppell's Vulture", 2017)


Gyps rueppellii reside on mountainsides and cliffs for the purpose of breeding and nesting (Clark and Davies, 2018). Gyps rueppellii can fly extremely high, around 11,000 m, making them the highest-flying birds in the world (O’Neal Campbell, 2015). Gyps rueppellii are therefore capable of surviving high altitudes, which makes them well-suited for living on mountainsides (Clark and Davies, 2018). They are sometimes found nesting in savanna and desert regions when searching for food, but generally shelter in hard-to-reach places for protection (Ferguson-Lees et al., 2001). (Clark and Davies, 2018; Ferguson-Lees, et al., 2001; O'Neal Campbell, 2015)

  • Range elevation
    0 to 11,000 m
    0.00 to ft

Physical Description

Gyps rueppellii weigh 5.5 to 9 kg and have a wingspan of 220 to 255 cm when full grown (Clark and Davies, 2018). This source highlights that the adults and juveniles have different appearances, but adults exhibit no sexual dimorphism. Additionally, Clark and Davies continue that juvenile G. rueppellii are usually darker than adults with a less-defined stripe on the underside of the wing and a more pink-colored neck. Adult G. rueppellii have dark skin on their head and neck that is sparsely covered with down feathers and a white collar of feathers around the base of their neck (O’Neal Campbell, 2015). The body coloration of adult G. rueppellii is dark brown with white stripes on the underside of the wings and some solid-white or white-tipped feathers on their belly and backs of wings (Clark and Davies, 2018). These vultures molt annually, but do not molt when they are breeding (Clark and Davies, 2018). Additionally, Clark and Davies state that when they are molting, they have feathers of different ages, and may appear slightly unkempt. The most closely related species of vulture to G. rueppellii is the white-backed vulture (G. africanus; Ferguson-Lees et al., 2001). The easiest way to distinguish between the Rüppell’s vulture and the white-backed vulture is by the white bill of G. rueppellii and the black bill of G. africanus (Scott Kennedy, 2014). A subspecies, G. r. erlangeri, is distinguished from other members of G. rueppellii by their gray coloration (Ferguson-Lees et al., 2001). (Clark and Davies, 2018; Ferguson-Lees, et al., 2001; O'Neal Campbell, 2015; Scott Kennedy, 2014)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • sexes alike
  • Range mass
    5.5 to 9 kg
    12.11 to 19.82 lb
  • Range length
    85 to 107 cm
    33.46 to 42.13 in
  • Range wingspan
    220 to 255 cm
    86.61 to 100.39 in


Gyps rueppellii are monogamous birds, remaining together through the breeding season and taking care of their chick as a pair once hatched (“Ruppell’s Griffon Vulture”, 2020). Rüppell's griffon vultures tend not to breed on an exact season schedule, which means they breed anytime throughout the year (O’Neal Campbell, 2015). The individual breeding season typically lasts for approximately 13 months (Clark and Davies, 2018). According to Clark and Davies, to find a mate, G. rueppellii begin courtship by flying in front of the cliffs that these vultures usually nest in. G. rueppellii nest and reproduce on cliff faces along mountainsides near many other mating pairs (Ferguson-Lees et al., 2001). In such crowded conditions, individuals may find it necessary to protect their nest, egg, chick, or mate from other nearby vultures and they do so by grunting or hissing at the threatening vulture (Clark and Davies, 2018). G. rueppellii usually remain in large groups when they are breeding, which provides them protection from predators (Ferguson-Lees et al., 2001). (Clark and Davies, 2018; Ferguson-Lees, et al., 2001; O'Neal Campbell, 2015; "Ruppell's Griffon Vulture", 2020)

Gyps rueppellii have a breeding season that lasts 13 months, and they lay one only one egg per season, therefore producing just one chick (Clark and Davies, 2018). These vultures will begin their next breeding season once their previous chick gains independence after fledging (fledging occurs approximately 150 days after hatch; "Ruppell's Griffon Vulture", 2020). Breeding seasons might be triggered by rainfall or increased ungulate populations, due to the increased availability of resources (O'Neal Campbell, 2015). There is no information in the literature regarding when G. rueppellii become sexually mature, but they do gain their full adult feathers at about five to six years of age, so it is possible that their sexual maturity coincides with this (Clark and Davies, 2018). (Clark and Davies, 2018; O'Neal Campbell, 2015; "Ruppell's Griffon Vulture", 2020)

  • Breeding interval
    The breeding intervals for the Rüppell's griffon vulture ranges around 13 months owing to some variability across populations (Clark and Davies, 2018).
  • Breeding season
    The breeding season usually takes around 13 months for copulation, nesting, and eventual hatch of the chick (Clark and Davies, 2018).
  • Average eggs per season
  • Average time to hatching
    55 days
  • Average fledging age
    150 days

Gyps rueppellii jointly care for their young from pre-hatching to pre-independence (“Ruppell’s Griffon Vulture”, 2020). This source continues that both parents work to build the nest and gather food resources to help raise the chick until it is able to care for itself. Eggs take about 55 days to hatch and both parents care for the egg (Ferguson-Lees et al., 2001). After hatch, the parents collect food for the chick, care for it, and protect it from predators until the chick reaches independence after fledging (“Ruppell’s Griffon Vulture”, 2020). Fledging occurs about 150 days after the chick hatches (Ferguson-Lees et al., 2001). According to “Ruppell’s Griffon Vulture”, chick’s gain independence before the next breeding period, which would be around 150 days after fledging (2020). (Ferguson-Lees, et al., 2001; "Ruppell's Griffon Vulture", 2020)

  • Parental Investment
  • altricial
  • male parental care
  • female parental care
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • provisioning
      • male
      • female
    • protecting
      • male
      • female
  • pre-weaning/fledging
    • provisioning
      • male
      • female
    • protecting
      • male
      • female
  • pre-independence
    • provisioning
      • male
      • female
    • protecting
      • male
      • female


The exact lifespan of wild Gyps rueppellii is unreported in the literature due to the small population size, but according to the Smithosonian’s website, they are estimated to live between 40 and 50 years in captivity (“Ruppel’s Griffon Vulture”, 2020). The above estimate seems reasonable given the oldest recorded age for a captive individual of G. fulvus, a close relative of G. rueppellii, was 41.4 years (“Longevity Records: Life Spans of Mammals et al., 2002). According to “Longevity Records…” in the wild, the highest recorded age for another closely related vulture, G. coprotheres, was 11.25 years. Currently, the age ranges of the similar species represent our best approximation for G. rueppellii until more information becomes available. ("Longevity Records: Life Spans of Mammals, Birds, Amphibians, Reptiles, and Fish", 2002; "Ruppell's Griffon Vulture", 2020)

  • Typical lifespan
    Status: captivity
    40 to 50 years


Gyps rueppellii individuals are social. They breed, nest, and feed in large groups (Ferguson-Lees et al., 2001). These vultures are non-migratory but will travel far from their nest in search of food, usually returning to their nesting site (O’Neal Campbell, 2015). Younger non-breeding birds will move around to find mates and nesting sites, but they are still not considered migratory (Ferguson-Lees et al., 2001). When feeding, according to Ferguson-Lees et al., G. rueppellii will assert dominance over other individuals by making sounds, including hisses, chatters, and squeals. (Ferguson-Lees, et al., 2001; O'Neal Campbell, 2015)

Home Range

Gyps rueppellii home range lies in a belt across the African continent from Senegambia to Ethiopia with a small section of range south of Ethiopia to Tanzania (Clark and Davies, 2018; Ferguson-Lees et al., 2001). (Clark and Davies, 2018; Ferguson-Lees, et al., 2001)

Communication and Perception

Gyps rueppellii are usually quiet birds but will communicate with others when feeding in order to assert dominance (Ferguson-Lees et al., 2001). Ferguson-Lees et al. also highlights that they sometimes make harsh noises to protect their territory when nesting. Potential mates communicate through flying together, though they do not usually verbally communicate (Clark and Davies, 2018). In most instances, G. rueppellii do not make sound (Ferguson-Lees et al., 2001). (Clark and Davies, 2018; Ferguson-Lees, et al., 2001)

Food Habits

Gyps rueppellii feed on carrion, which is meat from carcasses (Ferguson-Lees et al., 2001). These vultures are carnivores and tend to eat African ungulates like the Blue wildebeest (Connochaetes tarrinus), Burchell’s zebra (Equus burchelli), and Thomson’s gazelle (Eudorcas thomsonii; O’Neal Campbell, 2015). O’Neal Campbell also states that G. rueppellii will occassionally eat livestock when in close proximity to humans. (Ferguson-Lees, et al., 2001; O'Neal Campbell, 2015)


Gyps rueppellii have minimal predators. Their strong beaks and advanced flight make them capable of protecting themselves. The main predator of Rüppell's griffon vultures are humans (Ogada et al., 2016). They do not have any adaptations that protect them against humans when livestock is intentionally poisoned, or when the vultures are killed for medicinal purposes (“Rüppell’s Vulture”, 2017). (Ogada, et al., 2016; "Rüppell's Vulture", 2017)

Ecosystem Roles

Vultures play a vital ecosystem role in consuming carrion, which prevents the spread of disease (Ogada et al., 2016). When vultures such as Gyps rueppellii consume decaying meat, their stomachs are able to digest the organisms and microbes that cause disease (“Ruppell’s Griffon Vulture”, 2020). G. rueppellii remove a potential vector of disease by consuming contaminated meat before other wildlife come across it. (Ogada, et al., 2016; "Ruppell's Griffon Vulture", 2020)

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Gyps rueppellii can be beneficial to humans by protecting livestock from catching and spreading deadly disease (Ogada et al., 2016). By consuming deceased livestock or wildlife that are in close proximity to farms, the vultures potentially interrupt the spread of the diseases to livestock. G. rueppellii help protect the human agricultural industry from disease, which is ironic because the agricultural industry is directly harming these vultures (“Rüppell’s Vulture”, 2017; see Conservation Status). This source also reveals that humans benefit from these vultures economically when they are traded internationally as pets or used for medicinal purposes around their native range. (Ogada, et al., 2016; "Rüppell's Vulture", 2017)

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

There are no known adverse effects of Gyps rueppellii on humans.

Conservation Status

According to the IUCN Red List, Gyps rueppellii are critically endangered in the wild as a result of threats caused by human development (“Rüppell’s Vulture”, 2017). This source reveals that deforestation destroys habitat and prey species, which results in population decline of G. rueppellii. These vultures also face threats as a result of livestock poisoning (Ogada et al., 2016). This study reveals that the poison is intended to harm the direct predators of the livestock (e.g., hyenas and lions) that are disrupting agriculture, but vultures are ingesting the poison accidentally. This source highlights how livestock poisoning is resulting in massive population decline. Additionally, G. rueppellii are sometimes hunted for medicinal or recreational purposes and face threats due to pollution (“Rüppell’s Vulture”, 2017). Population size of Rüppell's vultures may be influenced by drought or lack of resources (O’Neal Campbell, 2015). (Ogada, et al., 2016; O'Neal Campbell, 2015; "Rüppell's Vulture", 2017)

Other Comments

There are two subspecies of Gyps rueppellii, G. r. rueppellii and G. r. erlangeri. The differences between the two subspecies are mostly visual with G. r. erlangeri being smaller (between 0.4 to 0.6 kg less; Ferguson-Lees et. al., 2001). According to O’Neal Campbell, G. rueppellii can fly higher than any other bird species (2015). When information was not available regarding G. rueppellii specifically, information from other Old-World Vulture (Gyps) species was used and was noted accordingly. (Ferguson-Lees, et al., 2001; O'Neal Campbell, 2015)


Mena Sherer (author), Colorado State University, Nathan Dorff (editor), Colorado State University, Tanya Dewey (editor), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.



living in sub-Saharan Africa (south of 30 degrees north) and Madagascar.

World Map


uses sound to communicate


young are born in a relatively underdeveloped state; they are unable to feed or care for themselves or locomote independently for a period of time after birth/hatching. In birds, naked and helpless after hatching.


Referring to an animal that lives in trees; tree-climbing.

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.


helps break down and decompose dead plants and/or animals


an animal that mainly eats meat


flesh of dead animals.


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate


used loosely to describe any group of organisms living together or in close proximity to each other - for example nesting shorebirds that live in large colonies. More specifically refers to a group of organisms in which members act as specialized subunits (a continuous, modular society) - as in clonal organisms.

cooperative breeder

helpers provide assistance in raising young that are not their own

desert or dunes

in deserts low (less than 30 cm per year) and unpredictable rainfall results in landscapes dominated by plants and animals adapted to aridity. Vegetation is typically sparse, though spectacular blooms may occur following rain. Deserts can be cold or warm and daily temperates typically fluctuate. In dune areas vegetation is also sparse and conditions are dry. This is because sand does not hold water well so little is available to plants. In dunes near seas and oceans this is compounded by the influence of salt in the air and soil. Salt limits the ability of plants to take up water through their roots.

  1. active during the day, 2. lasting for one day.
dominance hierarchies

ranking system or pecking order among members of a long-term social group, where dominance status affects access to resources or mates


a substance used for the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease


humans benefit economically by promoting tourism that focuses on the appreciation of natural areas or animals. Ecotourism implies that there are existing programs that profit from the appreciation of natural areas or animals.


animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.

female parental care

parental care is carried out by females


union of egg and spermatozoan


offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).

keystone species

a species whose presence or absence strongly affects populations of other species in that area such that the extirpation of the keystone species in an area will result in the ultimate extirpation of many more species in that area (Example: sea otter).

male parental care

parental care is carried out by males


Having one mate at a time.


having the capacity to move from one place to another.


This terrestrial biome includes summits of high mountains, either without vegetation or covered by low, tundra-like vegetation.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.


reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.

pet trade

the business of buying and selling animals for people to keep in their homes as pets.


an animal that mainly eats dead animals


remains in the same area


reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female


associates with others of its species; forms social groups.


uses touch to communicate


Living on the ground.


defends an area within the home range, occupied by a single animals or group of animals of the same species and held through overt defense, display, or advertisement


the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.

tropical savanna and grassland

A terrestrial biome. Savannas are grasslands with scattered individual trees that do not form a closed canopy. Extensive savannas are found in parts of subtropical and tropical Africa and South America, and in Australia.


A grassland with scattered trees or scattered clumps of trees, a type of community intermediate between grassland and forest. See also Tropical savanna and grassland biome.

temperate grassland

A terrestrial biome found in temperate latitudes (>23.5° N or S latitude). Vegetation is made up mostly of grasses, the height and species diversity of which depend largely on the amount of moisture available. Fire and grazing are important in the long-term maintenance of grasslands.


uses sight to communicate

year-round breeding

breeding takes place throughout the year


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2020. "Ruppell's Griffon Vulture" (On-line). Smithsonian's National Zoo & Conservation Biology Institute. Accessed February 09, 2021 at

2017. "Rüppell's Vulture" (On-line). IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Accessed February 09, 2021 at

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O'Neal Campbell, M. 2015. Vultures: Their Evolution, Ecology, and Conservation. United States: Taylor & Francis Group. Accessed February 09, 2021 at

Ogada, D., P. Shaw, R. Beyers, R. Buij, C. Murn. 2016. Another Continental Vulture Crisis: Africa's Vultures Collapsing toward Extinction. Conservation Letters, 9/2: 89-97. Accessed February 09, 2021 at

Pomeroy, D., P. Shaw, M. Opige, G. Kaphy, D. Ogada, M. Virani. 2015. Vulture Populations in Uganda: using road survey data to measure both densities and encounter rates within protected and unprotected areas. Bird Conservation International, 25/4: 399-414. Accessed February 09, 2021 at

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Stevenson, T., J. Fanshawe. 2002. Field Guide To the Birds of East Africa: Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi. United Kingdom: T&AD Poyser. Accessed February 09, 2021 at

Virani, M., A. Monadjem, S. Thomsett, C. Kendall. 2012. Seasonal Variation in Breeding Rüppell's Vultures Gyps rueppellii at Kwenia, southern Kenya and implications for conservation. United Kingdom: Bird Conservation International. Accessed February 09, 2021 at

Wilson, J., R. Primack. 2019. Conservation Biology in Sub-Saharan Africa. United Kingdom: Open Book Publishers. Accessed February 09, 2021 at