Mwala has been with us since 2004, and has developed in leaps and bounds. Since giving her a good diet of palm nuts her plumage, and consistency in flight is quite stunning. She is quite shy around strangers, but keeping a safe distance from our visitors, and confident with us, she is a star when she does her long gliding flights, and small 'tricks' with flower pots, picnic boxes, and rope! She is certainly one of the birds flown in the afternoons that is worth coming to see!
The Palm-nut Vulture or Vulturine Fish Eagle, is a very large bird of prey. It is the only member of the genus Gypohierax, taxonomically falling half way between a vulture and an eagle!
They breed in forest and savannah across sub-Saharan Africa, usually near water, its range coinciding with that of the Raphia and Elaeis Oil Palm. It is quite approachable, like many African vultures, and can be seen near habitation, even on large hotel lawns in the tourist areas of countries like The Gambia.
The palm-nut vulture is one of the very few birds of prey that regularly eats vegetable matter. The fleshy husks of oil palm and raffia palm fruits, along with wild dates and other fruits, make up an astonishing 58 to 65 percent of the adult diet and up to 92 percent of the juvenile’s. This unusual vulture derives its remaining nutritional requirements from more conventional sources such as fish, crabs and invertebrates, through to small mammals, birds and reptiles, which it hunts or occasionally takes as carrion. Accordingly, it cannot be considered strictly frugivorous, but it is very rarely seen at the big carcases that are the staple of other African vultures.
Breeding pairs construct large stick nests high up in tall trees, often palm nut trees, and will often exhibit a strong attachment to the nest site, staying within its vicinity year round. At the beginning of the breeding season, pairs soar together in an aerial display of rolling and diving, much more acrobatic than most vultures. During each breeding cycle, a single, white and chocolate-brown egg is laid, which is incubated by both sexes, over a period of four to six weeks. Normally around 85 to 90 days after hatching, the young brown chicks will fledge.