|Gyps rueppelli||Order: Accipitriformes||Family: Accipitridae (Hawks, Eagles, and Kites)|
Rüppell’s Griffon (a.k.a. Rueppel’s Griffon, Rüppell’s Vulture or Rüppell’s Griffon Vulture), a large vulture of central Africa, has the distinction of being the highest-flying bird that we know about, with confirmed evidence of a flight at an altitude of 37,100 ft. above sea level, because one was ingested by a jet engine of an airplane flying over Abidjan, Ivory Coast on November 29, 1973. The engine was shut down and the plane landed safely; mangled parts of the poor bird remained in the engine for identification by Roxie Laybourne at the U.S. National Museum of Natural History (now the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History). In August 2010, a Rüppell’s Griffon escaped a bird of prey site in Scotland; pilots in the area were warned to watch carefully due to the danger of collision; these large vultures weigh 14 to 20 pounds. That makes them smaller than our own California Condors, but nevertheless…
To fly so high without supplemental oxygen, the hemoglobin of this species has a variant protein with an extremely powerful affinity for oxygen.
Rüppell’s Griffon is critically endangered. The main cause of its declines in recent decades has been poisoning.