Photo: Brent Harris.
In southern Africa, the Egyptian Vulture is known affectionately as Pharaoh’s chicken, and is viewed with a great deal of interest since it is exceedingly rare. It is extinct as a breeding bird in our area, with the last definite breeding attempt in the region being in 1923. It is a vagrant to Botswana, and there have only been a handful of authenticated sightings in recent times, making it a Category A Rarity (less than 10 accepted records). It is not just in southern Africa that it is rare – it is regarded as a globally Endangered species and there is concern worldwide about its future survival and well-being. This species was last seen in Botswana during 1998, so the sighting of an immature bird at Wilderness Safaris’ Kalahari Plains Camp in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve caused a great deal of excitement in birding circles. The bird was seen and photographed by Brent Harris on 20th February, and the photos are quite conclusive. The bird is a subadult in its second or third year, with quite a bit of cream-coloured plumage which immediately differentiates it from an immature Hooded Vulture, the only other species with a slender bill (but which doesn’t normally occur in the Central Kalahari). Well done to Wilderness Safaris’ for recognizing the importance of this sighting and reporting it to the BirdLife Botswana Records Subcommittee.