Further observations and implications of Oil Palm Elaeis guineensis fruit consumption by Hooded Vultures Necrosyrtes monachus in coastal Gambia
Groups of the Hooded Vulture Necrosyrtes monachus were observed pick feeding at small piles of boiled and crushed African Oil Palm Elaeis guineensis fruit at the south Gambian village of Marakissa (16.39044°N, 13.12055°W) on several occasions in the 1980s and 1990s. The vultures foraged alongside working women farmers (Barlow et al 1997). This remains the only published reference for this type of feeding habit based on direct observations. The utilisation of non-human harvested African Oil Palm E. guineensis fruit (also known as palm-nuts) as a food source by N. monachus has been described previously, derived from a road-killed bird collected on 22nd September 2003 in coastal Gambia that was found with a stomach containing 11 fresh whole fruits of E. guineensis (Barlow 2004). The intact fruits had not been boiled, crushed or seemingly processed by farmers in the small-scale village enterprise palm oil production process. Another complete N. monachus specimen found in a rice field 100 km inland on 9th February 2002 had five Oil Palm pits (all the fleshy mescocarp parts were missing and the seed is contained inside the pit, e.g. see Figure 3) in the desiccated remains (Barlow 2004). We have no reports from elsewhere of N. monachus feeding on Oil Palm fruit or the by-product since the 2004 report, and a photographic record of N. monachus foraging on Oil Palm fruit in the field remains sought after. In the context of other species, feeding on palm fruit by the Palm-nut Vulture Gypohierax angolensis is well documented (Bannerman 1930, Clark & Davies 2018), and three fruits were found in the stomach of a desiccated carcass of an adult African Harrier-Hawk Polyboirodes typus found in the Central River Region of Gambia, February 2005 (personal observation).