May 2024

Pecking Order

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Pecking Order

I’m pretty sure a male leopard killed this zebra, but then abandoned the carcass as it was next to a busy road, and intended to retrieve it later. But fortune favours the bold here, and unseen vultures quickly dropped from the sky and monopolised it. It was so good to see that a pair of lappet-faced vultures were at the feast too.

A distinct pecking order exists among vultures when they converge on a carcass. The hierarchical feeding process ideally begins with the powerful lappet-faced vultures. Their strong beaks and large size allow them to tear through tough hide and muscle, creating initial access points into a carcass. Following them, white-backed vultures move in, leveraging the openings made by the lappets to feed on softer tissues. Lastly, the smaller hooded vultures, with their slender beaks, pick at the remaining scraps and clean up the bones, ensuring nothing goes to waste.

By Jenny Hishin
Author / Guest Guide