Rüppell's Vulture

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Rüppell's Vulture (Gyps rueppellii) is a medium-sized vulture that occurs throughout the Sahel region of central Africa. The current population of 30,000 is in decline due to ongoing loss of habitat and other pressures. Since first being assessed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature in 1998, populations of Rüppell's Vulture have declined. The species has been listed with an IUCN Red List status of "near threatened" since 2007 and the IUCN predicts that populations of the species will continue to decline. Adults are close to 1 metre (3.3 ft) in length, with a wingspan of around 2.6 metres (8.5 ft), and a weight that usually ranges from 7 to 9 kg (15 to 20 lb). Both sexes are alike: mottled brown or black overall with a whitish-brown underbelly and thin, dirty-white fluff covering the head and neck. The base of the neck has a white collar, the eye is yellow or amber, the crop patch deep chocolate-brown. Silent as a rule, they become vocal at the nest and when at a carcass, squealing a great deal. Rüppell's Vultures have several adaptations to their diet and are specialized feeders even among the Old World vultures of Africa. They have an especially powerful bill and, after the most attractive soft parts of a carcass have been consumed, they will continue with the hide, and even the bones, gorging themselves until they can barely fly. They have backward-facing splines on the tongue to help remove meat from bone. Rüppell's Vultures commonly fly at altitudes ranging up to 6,000 metres (20,000 ft). The birds have a specialized variant of the hemoglobin alphaD subunit; this protein has a high affinity for oxygen, which allows the species to take up oxygen efficiently despite the low partial pressure in the upper troposphere. A Rüppell's Vulture was confirmed to have been ingested by a jet engine of an airplane flying over Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire on November 29, 1973 at an altitude of 11,000 metres (36,100 ft). In August 2010 a Rüppell's Vulture escaped a bird of prey site in Scotland, prompting warnings to pilots in the area to keep an eye out due to the danger of collision. [READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE]

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