White-backed vultures are highly social and diurnal. It is gregarious in its feeding habits, and large numbers of them gather when food is abundant. They are very tame birds, and will venture into towns, looking for food. They are adapted for feeding on soft tissue, and are not able to tear open large carcasses that have thick skin. They search for food by soaring high in the air, using their keen eyesight. Once an individual sees a freshly killed animal, it will wheel in the sky as a signal to other vultures to fly down and eat. After gorging on food, a vulture may bathe at a favorite site with other species, or rest with its wings spread and back to the sun.
White-backed vultures are monogamous breeders and pairs stay together for life.
Food poisoning does not affect a vulture because its stomach acids are very acidic, with a pH of nearly zero. These acids prevent the spread of disease. To keep cool, vultures will urinate on their feet and legs. This also kills parasites and bacteria and helps keep the birds healthy.
The main threats to the White-backed vulture are: the conversion and loss of their habitat for agriculture, less available carrion due to declining wild ungulate populations, being hunted for traditional medicine use, illegal capture for the live trade, drowning in farm reservoirs, electrocution from electricity pylons, persecution and poisoning. According to the IUCN Red List, this species is the most widespread and common vulture in Africa, and the total population size of the White-backed vulture is 270,000 individuals. Currently this species is classified as Critically Endangered (CR) and its numbers today are decreasing.
White-backed vultures have a very important role in the ecosystem. By removing animal remains, these scavengers clean up the environment, helping to prevent diseases from spreading.