Rüppell’s Griffon Vulture vs Griffon Vulture and vs African White-backed Vulture


Rüppell’s Griffon Vulture vs Griffon Vulture and vs African White-backed Vulture


  • Short wings, closed hands, very slim body. Roughly 50% smaller than EGV and 30% than RGV.
  • Has 12 tail-feathers. Dark greyish tarsus,  blacker than other vultures.
  • Short black bill, jet black facial mark.
  • Black neck skin.
  • Body feathers, especially undertail coverts, intermediate pale streaking lacking any spot at feather-tip.
  • Dull greyish greater coverts, lacking any pale markings.
  • Upperwing plain, uniform sandy/brown with uniform brownish greater coverts.



  • Relatively short wings, closed hand, slim body. Roughly 30% in weight of EGV, and it generally looks slimmer and less bulky bellied.
  • Has 14 tail-feathers.
  • Very long billed, flat forehead, bill becomes pale during second  or third plumage.
  • Neck skin deep red; blue circular patches. Dark feathers on the neck.
  • Broad pale streaking with pale spots at feathers-tip  (anchor in juveniles) in body feathers, especially in undertail coverts.
  • Greater coverts black with pale tips, particularly evident in primary coverts; lacking lateral fringe.
  • Upperwing scaled with several rows of black pale-tipped feathers (greater and median coverts).



  • Long-winged, square wings, massive body. Looking notoriously heavy and bulky both in flight and perched.
  • Has 14 tail-feathers.
  • Squared head, bill dark until third or fourth plumage.
  • Neck skin blue-greyish; blue circular patches.
  • Body feathers, especially undertail coverts, usually uniform although sometimes with a pale streaking.
  • Greater and primary coverts from white to an almost black feather, but always entirely pale fringe.
  • Upperwing plain, uniform griffon/sandy except dark greater coverts with a visible pale fringe.


Abstract from: Rodríguez, G. & Elorriaga, J. 2016. Identification of Rüpell’s Vulture and White-backed Vulture and vagrancy in the WP. Dutch Birding 38.


Rüppell’s Griffon Vulture vs Griffon Vulture


Rüppell’s Griffon Vulture vs Griffon Vulture

Most Rüppell’s in Europe are observed in the extreme southern Iberia peninsula, mostly 2cy birds between february and november, but especially during their movements between Senegambia and Spain.

In addition to being a darker and smaller vulture, Rüppell’s characteristics are the pattern of the patagium, the clear margins of the greater and upper tail coverts, as well as the arrow pattern of the body feathers. There are other aspects such as the greater extent of moult, the more triangular head, the reddish neck, etc.


Bearded Vulture

BEARDED VULTURE · Gypaetus barbatus

L: 100-115 cm. WS: 235-270cm. Wing: ♂ 725-885 mm, ♀ 715-910 mm. Weight: ♂ 4.700-6.500 g, ♀ 5.500-7.300 g. Longevity: <  30 years old.

Coordinators: Alex Ollé, Teresa Montràs & Joan Goy



· barbatus (Eurasia and NO of Africa)

· meridionalis (Egypt and Arabia, in the E and S of Africa).


Basically, they are resident where they breed. Juveniles and immature birds can disperse beyond the mountain ranges where they have hatched, although they do not usually fly too far.


Second plumage: march to August-September 2cy. These birds moult from 3 (in males) to 5 (in females) inner primaries P1-3/5; from none to maximum 2 outer secondaries S1-2; and up to 3 inner secondaries (S21-19 -no visible-).

Third plumage: february to September 3cy. They moult another 3 primaries, leaving from 2 to 4 outer primaries retained as juvenile feathers (P6-8/10). In a very asymmetric way, a variable number of secondaries will not be moulted and remain juvenile instead (recall, juvenile feathers are brown, pointy and longer). Approx. 70% of females and 40% of males will moult (again) P1. A 30% of females and less than 10% of males will also moult (again) P2. P1 and P2 will now be 3rd generation feathers.

Fourth plumage: from January to September 4cy. All females (with few exceptions) and around 80% of males moult the remaining juvenile outer primaries (20% of males will moult those during their 5cy), and proceed moulting another 3 inner primaries (up to P5 at the most). Some 4cy birds can still show juvenile secondaries, as only half of the individuals will moult them completely.

Fifth plumage: from January to October 5cy. Some of the males, the ones on delay, will moult P10 (still juvenile). Some females, the ones that are more ahead, carry on moulting their outer primaries up to P8. In general, all of them moult from 1 to 3 inner primaries which now will be of 4th generation. Except for a few males (approx. 5%), all the other ones will moult the remaining secondaries that are still juveniles.

Sixth plumage: at the end of the 6cy, the moult foci of the 3rd generation feathers is between P7 y P10; the moult foci of the 4th generation feathers between P2 and P5; and exceptionally, some female moult (again) P1, now of 5th generation.

Adult plumage: all 3rd generation remiges are now moulted. The females with a more advanced moult (approx. 15% of them) achieve the adult plumage at the end of their 6 cy. The rest of the females and 80% of the males, at the end of the 7cy. The remaining 20% of males, at the end of the 8cy. The moult amongst adult birds starts slightly later than the one in immature birds, usually from April to September. In colder months, from November to March, the moult is retained with no missing feathers (except in some odd cases). The adult plumage is complete renew roughly every third year.


Sexes cannot be identified in field. However, the females are slightly bigger; with a clear bent beak, convex at its center; and the beards shaped as a ‘hand fan’. The males on the other hand, have a pretty flat beak (on its upper part) and the beard is grouped and towards the back as a brush.

Similar species:

Juveniles of Egyptian Vulture and Golden Eagle.

Rüppell’s Griffon Vulture


L: 85-100 cm. WS: 230-250 cm. Wing: ♂  ♀ 670-710 mm. Weight: ♂ ♀ 6.500-9.000 g. Longevity < 30 years old.

Coordinators: Alex Ollé & Joan Goy



· rueppellii (Narrow strip of sub-Saharan Africa, Senegambia to Sudan and Tanzania).

· erlangeri (Etiopía and Somalia).


Basically resident, with important dispersal movements. In the early 1990s it began to be detected with some regularity in Morocco and the extreme south of the Iberian Peninsula. It is now a regular bird with dozens of annual observations, especially of immature individuals between August and November, although individuals of any age and time of year can be observed. There are also numerous observations throughout Spain, and exceptionally also in France. These birds come to Europe naturally, through their association with the Griffon Vulture that winters in the Sahel, mainly in Senegambia.


Second plumage: january to december 2cy. Until September of the second calendar year moults the 4-5 innermost moulted primaries.

Third plumage: from february to September 3cy. By September of the third calendar year it has moulted p6-8, even reaching p9. Most secondaries are juveniles.

During 4cy it moults the last outermost juvenile primaries (p8-9) and p10, and by the end of the period it has moulted most secondaries.


Sexes cannot be identified in field.

Similar species:

Griffon Vulture, White-backed Vulture, Lappet-faced Vulture.


FORSMAN, D. 2016. Flight identification of raptors of Europe, north Africa and the Middle East. Bloomsbury.

OLLÉ, A. & TRABALON, F. 2019. Aves rapaces de Europa. Omega. 

RODRÍGUEZ G. & ELORRIAGA, J. 2016. Identification of Rüppell’s Vulture and White-backed Vulture and vagrancy in the WP. Dutch Birding 38: 349-375.