There are many different types of birds that are scavengers.
Importance Of Scavenger Birds To The Eco-system
These birds typically feed on the carcasses of other animals, which can help to clean up the environment. The also help control the spread of diseases by eating dead animals that have died of disease. Additionally, they provide important nutrients to the soil when they defecate.
Vultures are one of the most well-known scavengers is the vulture. Vultures are large birds that have bald heads and long necks. There are several different species of vultures.
In the Mara – Serengeti Eco system vultures perform the most important role in the eco-system and are the most important of the creatures found there.
They recycle 70% of all the nutrients and all the dead animals that die in the Mara – Serengeti.
If there were no vultures, the entire food chain would collapse, and life in the Mara – Serengeti as it is today would not be the same.
Old World Vultures
The Old World vultures includes nine species in three genera. These are the largest flying birds in the world and are found in Europe, Africa and Asia. They include eagles, buzzards, kites, and hawks.
The bearded vulture also known as lammergeier is the only member of the genus Gypaetus. It is found in Africa, southern Europe, and Asia. Bearded vultures have reddish yellow or white plumage on the head and breast with a grey black tail and wings. It also has long black bristles at the base of the bill.
The bearded vulture is the only animal that feeds almost exclusively on bone marrow. In Crete, it is known as the “bone-eater”. The bird throws the larger bones from a height on to rocky slopes in order to break them, and so as to eat the bone marrow.
The griffon vulture is a member of the genus Gyps. It is found in Africa, southern Europe, and Asia. The Griffon vulture is a rare type of vulture eagle, with impressive size and up to a 3m wingspan, and is Europe’s second-largest bird.
The white-backed vulture is a member of the genus Gyps. It is found in Africa and is the most common of the vultures found in Sub Saharan Africa. It is recognizable by its dark-brown face, long, white neck, and a white backside that can only be seen when the bird is in flying.
Rüppell’s vulture is a member of the genus Gyps. It is found in Africa. Rüppell’s vulture is thought to live up to 40 years in the wild and is one of the highest flying birds in the world.
The cinereous vulture is a member of the genus Aegypius. It is found in Africa, Southern Europe, Turkey and India. The cinereous vulture is a large, black bird with a bare, wrinkled head, a long neck and a slightly wedge-shaped tail.
The palm-nut vulture is a member of the genus Gypohierax. It is found in Africa and southern Asia. The palm-nut vulture is a large, black bird with a bare, wrinkled head and a long neck. It typically eats the fruits of palm trees.
Egyptian vultures are found in Africa and southern Europe. The Egyptian Vulture has a whitish head, back and chest. Its wings are also mostly white, but its black primary and secondary feathers
Lappet-faced vultures are found in Africa. The Lappet-faced vulture is the largest vulture in Africa and will usually feed first before other vultures because they will often drive off smaller vultures.
The Marabou stork is found in Africa. It is a large, white bird with a bare, wrinkled head and a long neck. It is found in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, and Ethiopia. The Marabou stork primarily eats carcasses of animals that have fallen prey to Africa’s predators.
In recent years however they can be seen in dump sites and near slaughter houses waiting for their next meal.
These vultures are often the first at a kill and are usually the ones able to open up the tough hide of an animal. They have very acidic stomachs that help to break down the meat and they typically eat the soft tissue first.
New World Vultures
There are five species of New World vultures in two genera. These birds are found in North and South America.
Black vultures also known as the American black vulture, Mexican vulture, zopilote, urubu, or gallinazo are found in North and South America. They are all black with a bare, wrinkled head.
Turkey vultures are found in North and South America. They are brown with a bare, red head. Turkey vultures primarily relays on carcasses of animals that have been killed by other predators or road kill.
Found in North and South America, condors are the largest flying land birds in the world. They are black with white patches on their wings.
There are many different types of ravens, but they are all black with a shiny plumage. Ravens are found in North America, Europe, and Asia. They typically eat small animals, carrion, and garbage.
Like ravens, there are many different types of crows, but they are all black with a shiny plumage. Crows are found in North America, Europe, and Asia. They typically eat small animals, carrion, and garbage.
Magpies are found in Europe, Asia, and Australia. They are black and white with a long tail. Magpies typically eat small animals, carrion, and garbage.
Jackdaws are found in Europe and Asia. They are black with a shiny plumage. Their diet is largely composed of seeds, fruit and invertebrates, they are also carrion eaters, they will pick at road kill or even take other birds’ eggs and garbage.
Hooded crows are found in Europe and Asia. The Hooded crow is an ashy grey bird with black head, throat, wings, tail, and thigh feathers, as well as a black bill, eyes, and feet. Hooded crows typically eats bird eggs, small animals, carrion, and trash from homes.
Common ravens are found in North America, Europe, and Asia. They are black with a shiny plumage. They will feed on small animals, insects, carrion, and garbage.
Do Scavengers Compete With Predators For Food?
In parts of Africa vultures do compete with predators like lions, cheetah, hyenas and jackals for food. Usually the vultures will wait until the predators have finished their meal and then they will move in to eat what is left. This behaviour has been observed in other scavengers like ravens as well.
They have also been known to drive predators off their kill by intimidating predators such as cheetah and jackals off a kill.
It is not known exactly how many birds are scavengers, but it is estimated that there are over 200 species of birds that engage in scavenging behaviour.
Do Scavenger Birds Hunt?
Most, scavengers do not actively hunt for food. They rely on other animals to kill and then they will eat the remains but some will actively look for small reptiles, bird eggs and rodents.
What Eats Scavenger Birds?
While scavenger birds play an important role in the ecosystem, they are not without predators. Some of the animals that prey on these birds include:
Mammalian scavengers (e.g. hyenas, jackals, and coyotes)
Large reptiles (e.g. crocodiles and alligators)
Scavenger birds have been known to fall victim to disease and parasites.
Diseases That Affect Scavenger Birds
As with any animal, scavenger birds can fall ill. Some of the diseases that have been known to affect these birds include: Avian botulism West Nile virus Encephalitis Newcastle disease Psittacosis (or “parrot fever”) and anthrax.
Despite the challenges they face, scavenger birds play an important role in the ecosystem. They help to clean up the environment and control the spread of disease. Additionally, they provide important nutrients to the soil.
Effects Of Lack Of Scavengers In An Eco System
An ecosystem without scavengers would see a sharp increase in the number of carcasses left to rot. This would lead to an increase in disease and a decrease in other animals who would be affected by disease.
Threats To Scavenger Birds
Vultures and other scavenger birds like storks, kites and eagles are in danger of disappearing. The main threat to these birds is the loss of habitat that have forced these birds to move into areas where they come into conflict with humans.
In some cases, these birds are killed for food or traditional medicine. Additionally, they are often hunted for their body parts, which are used in black magic rituals.
The bearded vulture which is now extinct in the Alps was feared and it was believed they attacked lambs and even young children. As a result, they were hunted to extinction.
Poisoned carcasses are another threat to scavenger birds. These carcasses are often laced with poison often pesticides in an attempt to kill predators. However, the scavenger birds often eat the poisoned meat and die as a result.
As a result of these threats, the populations of some scavenger bird species have declined sharply. The Egyptian vulture, for example, has lost more than 90% of its population in the last three decades.
What Can Be Done To Protect Scavenger Birds?
There are a number of things that can be done to protect scavenger birds. These include:
Creating protected areas
Improving management of natural resources
Educating people about the importance of these birds
Enforcing laws that protect these birds
Supporting research on these birds
By taking these steps, we can help to ensure that these important birds continue to play their vital role in the ecosystem.