The Rüppell’s Vulture

All of this talk about “buzzards” in As I Lay Dying made me think of a bird I recently stumbled upon on the internet called the Rüppell’s Vulture.  You could argue that vultures and buzzards are basically the same.  Their names are pretty much interchangeable.  Anyways, I thought it’d be interesting to share information about this carnivorous scavenger.

The Rüppell’s Vulture is usually found across central Africa, in countries such as Ethiopia, Tanzania, and Guinea.  It’s name comes from the German explorer/collector/zoologist, Eduard Rüppell.  They are usually just over 3 feet tall, but have a wingspan of about 8.5 feet.  This places their weight between 15 and 20 pounds.  They even fly at over 20 mph.

When searching for food, its not uncommon for them to fly up to 20,000 feet, or almost 4 miles, above sea level.  However, they can go much higher.  This is pretty much the reason I wanted to share this bird with the class.  It has been recorded to fly up to 37,000 feet. Meaning, the bird was flying around at about 7 miles about sea level. The only reason this was know was because this is the altitude level in which planes travel. (P.S. the poor little guy got sucked into the jet engine.)

These birds are noted for being social, but there has been a decline in their activity. “A decline in the range of these very social birds is partly a result of their being used in black magic.”  So, apparently in the African countries in which they are found, people are hunting them to use as ingredients for their black magic.  I guess I can understand why they fly at over 4 miles about the Earth’s surface to search for food.  I would too if I was hunted like that.

Here is a bonus infographic about the extremes of height and depth of Earth (this is where I first heard about this vulture):



8 Responses to “The Rüppell’s Vulture”

  1. meganne says:

    I wonder if Faulkner considered a vulture and buzzard as interchangeable…and if so, if he felt like he was going to be reincarnated into either as he lay dying (according to Sundquist’s essay, he professed a desire to but…).

  2. semilunatic says:

    Y’know, the “vultures” that live in Virginia and, presumably, most of the South are a bird called the turkey buzzard. Up close they really do look like turkeys, at least on the ground–but in the air, from far away, the mis-informed often mistake them romatically for eagles. No. That majestically kiting arch in the sky is not an eagle, it’s not even a hawk, it’s really a bloody turkey buzzard.

  3. Stephen says:

    Oh yeah, I’ve definitely seen those all my life. I don’t know how people mistake them for eagles. They’re ugly looking scavengers. I saw like 10 of them in this person front yard before, just searching for some grub. It was actually kind of awesome looking because they were just hanging out.

    • jholmes says:

      This comment triggered a memory of turkey buzzards in my own neighborhood that seems now in retrospect to be very akin to the feelings in As I Lay Dying. One afternoon when driving home, my family and I saw a large family of turkey buzzards flying around and then sitting on our street. They did this for quite awhile that day. We later realized that they were just occupying themselves while waiting for some poor creature to die.

  4. Richards says:

    What does this say about one’s internet explorations when one stumbles upon and clearly forms a deep and abiding connection with a Ruppell vulture? My Burt Reynolds searching sees so much more normative all of a sudden.

  5. Julianna Truslow says:

    I really loved the link you provided of the perspective of how things are situated from the highest in the atmosphere toward the core of the earth. I used to be a double major with Biology and this stuff I find to be so interesting. It’s amazing how small we are compared to the world around us.