Skip to main content Accessibility help

Long-term data indicates that supplementary food enhances the number of breeding pairs in a Cape Vulture Gyps coprotheres colony



The number of vultures is declining in many parts of the world due to numerous threats, such as poisoning and collisions with power-lines as well as the lack of adequate food sources. Vulture restaurants, i.e. supplementary feeding stations, have become a widespread conservation tool aimed at supporting vulture colonies. However, it is poorly understood how vulture restaurants influence population dynamics and whether they affect breeding success of vulture populations. We used a 12-year dataset from a breeding colony of the Cape Vulture Gyps coprotheres and a nearby vulture restaurant in South Africa to investigate the effect of supplementary food on population dynamics and breeding success. We found a significantly positive effect of supplementary food during the nest-building stage on the number of breeding pairs. However, breeding success, i.e. the proportion of successful nests, did not depend on supplementary food during the incubation and rearing stage. Especially during the critical rearing stage, the amount of food supplied might not have been sufficient to meet food demands of the colony. Still, our results indicate that carefully managed vulture restaurants might stabilise vulture colonies and can therefore aid vulture conservation.


Corresponding author

*Author for correspondence; e-mail:


Hide All
1 Shared co-authorship



Hide All
Allan, D. (1989) Strychnine poison and the conservation of avian scavengers in the Karoo, South-Africa. S. Afr. J. Wildl. Res. 19: 102105.
Anctil, A., Franke, A. and Bêty, J. (2014) Heavy rainfall increases nestling mortality of an arctic top predator: experimental evidence and long-term trend in peregrine falcons. Oecologia 174: 10331043.
Anderson, M. D. (2000) Raptor conservation in the northern Cape Province, South Africa. Ostrich 71: 2532.
Anderson, M. D. and Anthony, A. (2005) The advantages and disadvantages of vulture restaurants versus simply leaving livestock (and game) carcasses in the veldt. Vulture News 53: 4245.
Arroyo, B. and Razin, M. (2006) The effects of human activities on bearded vulture behaviour and breeding success in the French Pyrenees. Biol. Conserv. 128: 276284.
Bamford, A. J., Diekmann, M., Monadjem, A. and Mendelsohn, J. (2007) Ranging behaviour of Cape Vultures Gyps coprotheres from an endangered population in Namibia. Bird Conserv. Internatn. 17: 331339.
Boshoff, A. F. and Vernon, C. (1980) The past and present distribution and status of the Cape Vulture in the Cape Province. Ostrich 51: 230250.
Boshoff, A. F., Minnie, J. C., Tambling, C. J. and Michael, M. D. (2011) The impact of power line-related mortality on the Cape Vulture Gyps coprotheres in a part of its range, with an emphasis on electrocution. Bird Conserv. Internatn. 21: 311327.
Bowland, A. E., Bishop, K. S., Taylor, P. J., Lamb, J., van der Bank, F. H., van Wyk, E. and York, D. (2001) Estimation and management of genetic diversity in small populations of plains zebra (Equus quagga) in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Biochem. Syst. Ecol. 29: 563583.
Carrete, M., Donázar, J. A. and Margalida, A. (2006) Density-dependent productivity depression in Pyrenaean bearded vultures: implications for conservation. Ecol. Appl. 26: 16741682.
Carrete, M., Sanchez-Zapata, J. A., Benitez, J. R., Lobon, M., Montoya, F. and Donázar, J. A. (2012) Mortality at wind-farms is positively related to large-scale distribution and aggregation in griffon vultures. Biol. Conserv. 145: 102108.
Cortés-Avizanda, A., Carrete, M. and Donázar, J. A. (2010) Managing supplementary feeding for avian scavengers: Guidelines for optimal design using ecological criteria. Biol. Conserv. 143: 17071715.
Crawley, M. J. (2007) The R book. Chichester, UK: John Wiley and Sons.
Donázar, J. A., Hiraldo, F. and Bustamante, J. (1993) Factors influencing nest site selection, breeding density and breeding success in the bearded vulture (Gypaeatus barbatus). J. Appl. Ecol. 30: 504514.
Donázar, J. A., Margalida, A., Carrete, M. and Sánchez-Zapata, J. A. (2009) Too sanitary for vultures. Science 326: 664.
Fick, L., Matthee, A., Mitchell, D. and Fuller, A. (2006) The effect of boma-housing and long-acting tranquillizers on body temperature, physical activity and food intake of blue wildebeest (Connochaetes taurinus). J. Therm. Biol. 31: 159167.
Gangoso, L., Álvarez-Lloret, P., Rodríguez-Navarro, A. A. B., Mateo, R., Hiraldo, F. and Donázar, J. A. (2009) Long-term effects of lead poisoning on bone mineralization in vultures exposed to ammunition sources. Environ. Pollut. 157: 569574.
García-Ripollés, C. and López-López, P. (2011) Integrating effects of supplementary feeding, poisoning, pollutant ingestion and wind farms of two vulture species in Spain using a population viability analysis. J. Ornithol. 152: 879888.
Gavashelishvili, A. and McGrady, M. J. (2006) Geographic information system-based modeling of vulture response to carcass appearance in the Caucasus. J. Zool. 269: 365372.
Gehlbach, F. R. and Roberts, J. C. (1997) Experimental feeding of suburban Eastern Screech-Owls Otus asio has few effects on reproduction apart from non-experimental factors. J Avian Biol. 28: 3846.
Gilbert, M., Virani, M. Z., Watson, R. T., Oaks, J. L., Benson, P. C., Khan, A. A., Ahmed, S., Chaudhry, J., Arshad, M., Mahmood, S. and Shah, Q. A. (2002) Breeding and mortality of Oriental White-backed Vulture Gyps bengalensis in Punjab Province, Pakistan. Bird Conserv. Internatn. 12: 311326.
Gilbert, M., Watson, R. T., Ahmed, S., Asim, M. and Johnson, J. A. (2007) Vulture restaurants and their role in reducing diclofenac exposure in Asian vultures. Bird Conserv. Internatn. 17: 6377.
González, L. M., Margalida, A., Sánchez, R. and Oria, J. (2006) Supplementary feeding as an effective tool for improving breeding success in the Spanish imperial eagle (Aquila adalberti). Biol. Conserv. 129: 477486.
Grey-Ross, R., Downs, C. T. and Kirkman, K. (2009) Is use of translocation for the conservation of subpopulations of oribi Ourebia ourebi (Zimmermann) effective? A case study. Afr. J. Ecol. 47: 409415.
Hansen, A. J. (1987) Regulation of bald eagle reproductive rates in Southeast Alaska. Ecology 68: 13871392.
Hernández, M. and Margalida, A. (2009) Assessing the risk of lead exposure for the conservation of the endangered Pyrenean bearded vulture (Gypaetus barbatus) population. Environ. Res. 109: 837842.
IUCN (2014) The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.1
Jungius, H. (1971) Biology and behaviour of the reedbuck (Redunca arundinum, Boddaert 1785) in the Kruger National Park. Berlin, Germany: Paul Parey.
Kamler, J. F., Stenkewitz, U. and Macdonald, D. W. (2013) Lethal and sublethal effects of black-backed jackals on cape foxes and bat-eared foxes. J. Mammal. 94: 295306.
Kane, A., Jackson, A. L., Monadjem, A., Colomer, M. A. and Magalida, A. (2014) Carrion ecology modelling for vulture conservation: are vulture restaurants needed to sustain the densest breeding population of the African white-backed vulture? Anim. Conserv. 18: 279286.
Kirby, T., Shannon, G., Page, B. and Slotow, R. (2008) The influence of sexual dimorphism on the foraging behaviour of the nyala Tragelaphus angasii . Acta Zool. Sinica 54: 561568.
Komen, J. (1991) Energy requirements of nestling Cape vultures. The Condor 93: 153158.
Komen, J. and Brown, C. J. (1993) Food requirements and the timing of breeding of a Cape vulture colony. Ostrich 64: 8692.
Ledger, J. and Annegarn, H. (1981) Electrocution hazards to the Cape Vulture Gyps coprotheres in South-Africa. Biol. Conserv. 20: 1524.
Margalida, A. (2010) Supplementary feeding during the chick-rearing period is ineffective in increasing the breeding success in the bearded vulture (Gypaetus barbatus). European J. Wildl. Res. 56: 673678.
Marglida, A., García, D. and Cortés-Avizanda, A. (2007) Factors influencing the breeding density of Bearded Vultures, Egyptian Vultures and Eurasian Griffon Vultures in Catalonia (NE Spain): management implications. Anim. Biodiv. Conserv. 42: 189200.
Margalida, A., Donázar, J. A., Carrete, M. and Sánchez-Zapata, J. A. (2010) Sanitary versus environmental policies: fitting together two pieces of the puzzle of European vulture conservation. J. Appl. Ecol. 47: 931935.
Margalida, A., Colomer, M. A. and Sanuy, D. (2011a) Can wild ungulate carcasses provide enough biomass to maintain avian scavenger populations? An empirical assessment using a bio-inspired computational model. PLoS ONE 6: e20248
Margalida, A., Oro, D., Cortés-Avizanda, A., Heredia, R. and Donázar, J. A. (2011b) Misleading population estimates: biases and consistency of visual surveys and matrix modelling in the endangered Bearded Vulture. PLoS ONE 6: e26784
Margalida, A., Colomer, M. A. and Oro, D. (2014) Man-induced activities modify demographic parameters in a long-lived species: effects of poisoning and health policies. Ecol. Appl. 24: 436444.
Martínez-Abrain, A., Tavecchia, G., Regan, H. M., Jimenez, J., Surroca, M. and Oro, D. (2012) Effects of wind farms and food scarcity on a large scavenging bird species following an epidemic of bovine spongiform encephalopathy. J. Appl. Ecol. 49: 109117.
Moléon, M., Sánchez-Zapata, J. A., Sebastián-González, E. and Owen-Smith, N. (2015) Carcass size shapes the structure and functioning of an African scavenging assemblage. Oikos 124: 13911403.
Monadjem, A. and Bamford, A. J. (2009) Influence of rainfall on timing and success of reproduction in Marabou Storks Leptoptilos crumeniferus. Ibis 151: 344351.
Monadjem, A., Wolter, K., Neser, W. and Kane, A. (2012) Effect of rehabilitation on survival rate of endangered Cape vultures. Anim. Conserv. 17: 5260.
Moreno-Opo, R., Trujillano, A. and Margalida, A. (2015) Optimization of supplementary feeding programs for European vultures depends on environmental and management factors. Ecosphere 6: 127.
Mundy, P., Butchart, D., Ledger, J. and Piper, S. (1992) The vultures of Africa. London, UK: Academic Press.
Naidoo, V., Wolter, K., Espie, I. and Kotze, A. (2011) Vulture rescue and rehabilitation in South Africa: An urban perspective. J. South Afr. Vet. Assoc. 82: 2431.
Ngcobo, H. and Dladla, B. (2002) Provincial report on education and training for agriculture and rural development in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN). Pietermaritzburg, South Africa: KZN Department of Agriculture.
Oaks, J. L., Gilbert, M., Virani, M. Z., Watson, R. T., Meteyer, C. U., Rideout, B. A., et al. (2004) Diclofenac residues as the cause of vulture population decline in Pakistan. Nature 427: 630633.
Ogada, D. L., Keesing, F. and Virani, M. Z. (2012). Dropping dead: causes and consequences of vulture population declines worldwide. Ann. NY Acad. Sci. 1249: 5771.
Ogunsanmi, A. O. and Taiwo, V. O. (2001) Pathobiochemical mechanisms involved in the control of the disease caused by Trypanosoma congolense in African grey duiker (Sylvicapra grimmia). Vet. Parasitol. 96: 5163.
Oro, D., Margalida, A., Carrete, M., Heredia, R. and Donázar, J. A. (2008) Testing the goodness of supplementary feeding to enhance population viability in an endangered vulture. PLoS ONE 3: e4084.
Phipps, W. L., Wolter, K., Michael, M. D., MacTavish, L. M. and Yarnell, R. W. (2013) Do power lines and protected areas present a catch-22 situation for Cape vultures (Gyps coprotheres)? PLoS ONE e76794.
Piper, S. E. (1994) Mathematical demography of the Cape Vulture Gyps coprotheres. Volumes 1 and 2. Ph.D. dissertation, Faculty of Science, Applied Mathematics, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, SA.
Piper, S. E. (2004) Vulture restaurants. In: Monadjem, A., , A., Anderson, M. D., Piper, S. E. and Boshoff, A. F., eds. The Vultures of Southern Africa – Quo Vadis? Proceedings of a workshop on vulture research and conservation in southern Africa. Johannesburg, South Africa: Birds of Prey Working Group.
Piper, S. E. (2005) Supplementary feeding programmes: How necessary are they for the maintenance of numerous and healthy vultures populations? Proceedings of the International Conference on Conservation and Management of Vulture Populations. Thessaloniki, Greece.
Piper, S. E., Mundy, P. J. and Ledger, J. A. (1981) Estimates of survival in the Cape Vulture, Gyps coprotheres . J. Anim. Ecol. 50: 815825.
Piper, S. E., Boshoff, A. F. and Scott, H. A. (1999) Modelling survival rates in the Cape Griffon Gyps coprotheres, with emphasis on the effects of supplementary feeding. Bird Study 46: 230238.
R Development Core Team (2013) R 3.0.1. Vienna, Austria: R Foundation for Statistical Computing.
Robertson, A. S. and Boshoff, A. F. (1986) The feeding ecology of cape vultures Gyps coprotheres in a stock-farming area. Biol. Conserv. 35: 6386.
Smith, D. G., Murphy, J. R. and Woffinden, N. D. (1981) Relationships between jackrabbit abundance and Ferruginous Hawk reproduction. The Condor 83: 5256.
Southern, H. N. (1970) The natural control of a population of Tawny Owls (Strix aluco). J. Zool. 162: 197285.
Symonds, M. R. E. and Moussalli, A. (2011) A brief guide to model selection, multimodel inference and model averaging in behavioural ecology using Akaike´s information criterion. Behav. Ecol. Sociobiol. 65: 1321.
Väli, Ü. (2012) Factors limiting reproductive performance and nestling sex ratio in the lesser spotted eagle Aquila pomarina at the northern limit of its range: the impact of weather and prey abundance. Acta Ornithol. 47: 157168.
Van Rooyen, C. S. (2000) An overview of vulture electrocutions in South Africa. Vulture News 43: 522.
Vernon, C. (1999) The Cape Vulture at Colleywobbles: 1977-1997. Ostrich 70: 200202.
Vlachos, C. G., Bakaloudis, D. E. and Holloway, G. J. (1999) Population trends of Black Vulture Aegypius monachus in Dadia Forest, north-eastern Greece following the establishment of a feeding station. Bird Conserv. Internatn. 9: 113118.
Yarnell, R. W., Phipps, W. L., Dell, S., MacTavish, L. M. and Scott, D. M. (2015) Evidence that vulture restaurants increase the local abundance of mammalian carnivores in South Africa. Afr. J. Ecol. 53: 287294.

Related content

Powered by UNSILO
Type Description Title
Supplementary materials

Schabo supplementary material
Schabo supplementary material 1

 Word (21 KB)
21 KB

Long-term data indicates that supplementary food enhances the number of breeding pairs in a Cape Vulture Gyps coprotheres colony



Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed.