As many of you will know, at the Trust we really love vultures and we are fortunate to have a variety of species in our team. Some of them you will be more familiar with having seen them star in our flying displays, such as the cheeky team of Hooded Vultures and our impressive pair of African White-backed Vultures.
However, we have a number of other species of vulture including our pair of Palm-nut Vultures, Athena and Polo. They are a secretive and rather shy pair and we are hopeful that they may one day breed. Last year, Polo (the male) showed some courtship behaviour, bowing and calling to Athena with a flushed face, which indicates that he is interested in getting to know her better. For the most part, she ignored him but did spend time in the nest she constructed under the lovely nest ledge that we built them.
Not ones to give up, we undertook further research into what else we could do to encourage them. We spoke to other collections about diet, nesting sites and nest material, and ended up re-designing their aviary. This included adding more perching to help them feel more secure, as well as adding a roof over the nest area as wild Palm-nut Vultures usually nest in the middle of trees rather than on the tops. Since moving back in, we’ve noticed they are a lot more confident and we’ve witnessed positive breeding behaviour. It’s unlikely that they’ll breed this year but we are hopeful for future attempts from them.
Palm-nut Vultures are unusual for birds of prey in that their diet includes plant matter. They eat a wide variety of things including palm nuts, wild dates, insects, carrion and fish. We try to replicate this variety in what we feed Athena and Polo, including supplying them with a large amount of palm nuts. On the advice of the other collections we consulted with, we are going to see if they might like some other food stuffs as well, such as dates and avocado.
Fingers crossed that we might be able to tell you about a chick in the next few years!