White-backed Vulture (Gyps africanus): a new species for Morocco and North Africa | Moroccan Birds

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Sunday, May 25, 2014

White-backed Vulture (Gyps africanus): a new species for Morocco and North Africa

Today, 25 May 2014, we saw a White-backed Vulture (Gyps africanus) near Tétouan, northern Morocco. The bird was with the group of 3 Rüppell's and 38 Griffon vultures that we saw yesterday at the same site (also present today).

This is the first record for Morocco and North Africa for this species, and it is only the 4th or 5th record (depending if the bird seen in Portugal is included or not) for the Western Palearctic. There were 3 records from southern Spain on the Strait of Gibraltar (2 at Tarifa and 1 at Algeciras) between 2008 and 2011There was also an earlier record from southern Portugal (an adult at Cape São Vicente on 14 October 2006) but it was classed in Category D at the time. In light of the subsequent records from Spain and especially this one from Morocco, this Portuguese record probably may be reviewed. (thanks to Javier Elloriaga, Dominic Mitchell, Richard Klim and other birders for their comments). The White-backed Vulture breeds in sub-Saharan Africa and classified as Endangered by IUCN (Red List 2012). 

Vautour africain ou Vautour à dos blanc (Gyps africanus): une nouvelle espèce pour le Maroc et l'Afrique du Nord. Un individu a été observé avec un groupe composé de 3 Vautours de Rüppell et de 38 Vautours fauves à Tétouan (nord du Maroc) aujourd'hui. L'espèce se reproduit en Afrique sub-saharienne et classé En danger (EN)  par l'UICN (Liste Rouge 2012).

Rachid El Khamlichi, Mohammed Karim El Haoua & Mohamed Amezian

photos by Rachid.

Update 26 MayWe went back to the site at lunchtime but we haven’t found a single vulture neither at the carcass nor in the surrounding area. Most likely they have moved to the direction of Jbel Moussa after we left the area yesterday at about 16:00. Good luck for the birders around the Strait of Gibraltar.

In summary, this May was a vultures' mouth by excellence: 10 Rüppell's Vultures and one White-backed Vulture in 4 days (10, 11, 24 and 25 May. see this link: http://moroccanbirds.blogspot.com/2014_05_01_archive.html

White-backed Vulture (Gyps africanus) and Griffon Vulture (Gyps fulvus).
White-backed Vulture (Gyps africanus) and Griffon Vulture (Gyps fulvus).
White-backed Vulture (Gyps africanus), Rüppell's Vulture (Gyps rueppellii) & Griffon Vulture (Gyps fulvus)
Three Gyps vultures together at Tétouan, Morocco: White-backed Vulture (Gyps africanus), Rüppell's Vulture (Gyps rueppellii) and Griffon Vulture (Gyps fulvus).


  1. 3 spp together, amazing, well done!.....

    Laurie -

  2. There are observations of Gyps africanus already in Spain over the past years and even one collided with a wind turbine in Cadiz province.

    1. Thanks for your comment. Yes, as others commented, there are 3 accepted records from southern Spain. There is also an earlier record (October 206) from Portugal but was classed in Category D (means they had doubts about its natural occurrence at the time). These are the only Western Palearctic records so far.

      Wind turbines are fatal also for our native birds, and this unlucky bird came from sub-Sahara Africa to collide with them. Unfortunately for birds, there are many of these wind turbines on both shores of the Strait of Gibraltar.