Vultures along the N2 Dakar – St. Louis road
The N2 Route National that moves transport between Dakar and St. Louis is a good place in its middle 100km between Tivaouane and Louga to see Senegal’s vultures. Maybe the agricultural land here really does have more vultures than most other places, or maybe the fast, heavy traffic and so frequent road kills of livestock pulls in birds, but it is one of the few places where larger vultures are reliably in the air, a total count of 100 or so large vultures is not unusual along the 100km and most of my journeys have resulted in sightings of the rarer lappet-faced vulture. The busy traffic also makes it a dangerous road to suddenly stop and whilst there are opportunities to pull off, I should say “don’t watch vultures and drive!”.
Driving back from Djoudj on 8 April, it was my brother, a non-birder, who spotted the massed birds on early Saturday afternoon. Some 60 birds included the obviously huge European griffon vultures. It is easy to overlook these at a kill, with their body colours similar to the generally more abundant African white-backed vulture. The photos below show the colour and size differences between these two and the distinctly patterned Ruppell’s griffon vulture. There were no lappet-faced today. The gathering at the carcass of 5:2:1: African white-backed:Rupells: European Griffon, with 2 hooded is broadly similar to other counts I have made here, though often with the addition of no more than 2 to 3 lappet-faced. I have yet to see white-headed vulture, always noted as Senegal’s rarest, along this stretch, though it has been recently recorded here. We await the findings on the wing-tagged European griffon vulture, for which there are now a large number of tagging schemes.
Young European griffon vultures (the dark as opposed to yellow beak and brown rather than white ruff identiying the age as not adult, though anything up to 6 years old) showing their warm brown/ginger colour and large size compared to the black and white patterned Ruppells (second from left).
Comparison of European Griffon vulture (right) with the more similar African white backed vulture, showing the larger size and warmer brown of the former.
The wing tagged European griffon vulture. Information on its origins will be posted soon.
A photo I took nearby along the same road, but a year ago (also in April). The three birds on the left are nicely lined up to show the size differences, left to right, between lappet-faced, European griffon and African white-backed.