02 August 2014

Lappet-faced Vulture breeding at Mahazat as-Sayd Protected Area – Near Taif

Lappet-faced Vulture is a scarce breeding resident in Saudi Arabia with other birds passing through in very small numbers on migration. Probably the best site in the Kingdom is Mahazat as-Sayd Protected Area near Taif where there were 27 breeding pairs of Lappet-faced Vultures in the park in 2013. From 1992 to 2003 numbers increased from 6 to 37 pairs with nests widely scattered throughout the Protected Area which was established in 1989. It is thought the fence around the reserve and lack of access to the general public has allowed the species to increase in numbers with the closest nesting pairs only 500 metres apart. We saw two active nests on our visit with both nests with a single well grown young and both in flat topped Maerua crassifolia trees with one nest approximately 4.5 metres from the ground with the other at only about three metres. When the adults birds are not present at the nest the young bird stays very low and out of sight but we managed to photograph, very quickly, a young bird on the nest from the back of one of the rangers trucks. This bird was hatched in mid-February (16-18 February) and the eggs will have been laid at the end of December 2013 as they take 52 days on average from laying to hatching, making the youngster one month old. The birds nest on flat topped trees and build a huge nest right in the crown of the tree made from sticks (mainly Acaccia) and other material found nearby.