Vultures of the world

VULTURES OF THE WORLD

OLD WORLD VULTURES

Both Old World and New World vultures are scavenging birds, feeding mostly from carcasses of dead animals. Old World vultures are found in the Old World, throughout continents of Europe, Asia and Africa. They belong to the family Accipitridae, which also includes the eagles, buzzards, kites and hawks. They are not closely related to the New World vultures and condors. The similarities between the two groups of vultures are due to convergent evolution. Old World Vulture do not have a good sense of smell and thus locate their meals by sight. Here are the following 16 Old World vulture species:

African White-backed Vulture – Critically Endangered

_TPJ0565[1]Scientific Name: Gyps africanus (Salvadori, 1865)
English: White-backed Vulture
AFR: Witrugaasvoël

Scientific classification

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Aves

Order: Falconiformes

Family: Accipitridae

Genus: Gyps

Species: africanus

 

 

 

 

“Gyps” is Greek for a vulture, while “africanus” is derived from the Latin word for Africa.

The African White-backed Vulture (Gyps africanus) is an Old World vulture. Endemic to Africa, being the most widespread and common vulture in Africa. It occurs from Senegal, Gambia and Mali in the west, throughout the Sahel region to Ethiopia and Somalia in the east, through East Africa into Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia and South Africa in the south and is found mainly in South Africa, Lesotho and Botswana. They nest on cliffs and usually lay one egg per year.

Distribution, Habitat and Status

Found up to 3,000m above sea level, they are endemic to Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, The Democratic Republic of the Côte d’Ivoire, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Africa, South Sudan, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, United Republic of Togo, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.  They are now extinct as a breeding species in Nigeria, with only one stronghold in Ghana. The species has also declined in Sudan and South Sudan, Somalia and Kenya, but is apparently more stable in Ethiopia, Tanzania, Uganda showed short-term increases; and across southern Africa.  Classified as a lowland open species which prefer wooded savannah, particularly Acacia trees, they need tall trees for nesting and have been recorded nesting on electricity pylons in South Africa. They nest in loose colonies.  South Africa has an estimated 40,000 individuals left.

Distinctive Behaviour

White-backed vultures breed at the start of the dry season, nesting in loose colonies of 2 to 13 birds. The nest is a platform of sticks, lined with grass and green leaves, situated in the crown or fork of a large tree.  They soar and circle on thermals for hours looking for carrion and have been known to follow herds of migratory animals in search of food.  They feed in large numbers at a carcass resulting in lots of hissing and grunting to protect their share of the food.  They clean and preen themselves thoroughly after feeding and are often seen bathing and sunbathing together with other vulture species.

Appearance

Bald headed, long necked vulture. Brown to cream coloured as an adult with dark tail and flight feathers, especially noticeable from below. White rump patch and ruff. Dark neck and paler head with an all dark bill. Juvenile birds are darker. Length: 89-98 cm; Wingspan: 210-220 cm; Weight: 4,2-7,2 kg

Reproduction

The African White-backed is one of the tree nesting species of vulture that is labelled as data deficient, not much detail is known about their breeding habits and breeding success.  Research is currently being conducted by VulPro in this regard.  The female lays a single egg, sharing the incubation with her mate for around 56 days.  The pale grey chick is fed by both parents until they fledge at 120 to 130 days of age.

Bearded Vulture – Least Concern

bearded_vulture-_CVR4877_giants_castle_south_africa-c_v_rooyenScientific Name:

Gypaetus barbatus (Linnaeus, 1758)

English: Bearded Vulture, Lammergeyer, Ossifrage
AFR: Baardaasvoël

Scientific classification

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Aves

Order: Accipitriformes

Family: Accipitridae

Genus: Gypaetus

Species: barbatus

“Barbatus” is Latin for beard and the fact that this is not a typical vulture “gyps” is ‘griffon vulture’ and aetos ‘eagle’ in Greek. The outdated German name “Lammergeier” refers to the erroneous belief that this bird is able to catch lambs.

The Bearded Vulture (Gypaetus barbatus) is an Old World vulture. It is endemic to southern Africa, widely and disjunctly distributed across the Palearctic, Afrotropical and Indomalayan regions. They nest on cliffs and usually lay one egg per year.

Distribution, Habitat and Status

Some populations are growing in Europe due to population supplementation. The species is regarded as rare and at high risk in Egypt, with an estimated few hundred pairs in Ethiopia. In 2011, there were only three nest-sites known in Kenya, and six or more in Tanzania, with the population in Uganda unknown. There are estimated to be 5-10 pairs in Morocco, and it is considered extinct in Tunisia. In southern Africa, including South Africa, the population is estimated at c.100 breeding pairs. Possibly extinct in Albania, Macedonia and the former Yugoslav Republic.  Listed as regionally extinct in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Jordan, Liechtenstein, Montenegro, Serbia and the Syrian Arab Republic.  The species occupies remote, mountainous areas, with dangerous terrain, usually above 1,000 m.  Breed and roost on mountainous ledges.  The current global estimate is set at 2,000-10,000 individuals, roughly equating to 1,300-6,700 mature individuals.

Distinctive Behaviour

Generally not willing to compete with other vultures at carcasses and will scavenge from older carcasses if fresh meat is not available. Its main food is carrion with a large proportion of bones ingested for the marrow.  Its diet is also made up of tortoises, and occasionally also live mammals and birds. The Bearded Vulture uses “tools” to help it access the bone marrow,  bones may be eaten whole otherwise they are broken using their beaks, hammered against the ground or dropped from 50 to 80 m onto a hard rock. Tortoises are treated the same way as bones.  Their nests will be lined with scraps of skin and wool as well as pellets and sometimes rubbish.

Appearance

Adults have black wings and tail. The upper wing shows small buff streaks ending in white spots.   Neck and under parts are bright chestnut-orange, due to mineral particles, resulting from dust-bathing. The original colour is whitish. Whitish feathers on the breast, partially coloured orange and near black. Under wings and under tail feathers are grey-black. The head is whitish, with a horn-coloured hooked bill. Lores are black. The eyes are pale yellow, surrounded by conspicuous red eye-ring. But the feature which makes this raptor unmistakable is the small black “beard” of feathers, projecting below the bill base. Legs are short and grey.  Juveniles are dark brown to blackish above, with brown-black under parts. Eyes and eye-ring are reddish-brown. The beard is shorter than adults. Between 100-115 cm tall, wingspan of 2.5-2.95m, approximately 4.5-7 kg

Reproduction

They construct large nests about 1m diameter made up of branches, lined with animal remains. Nests are found on remote overhung cliff ledges or in caves and will be re-used over the years. Breeding occurs from December to September in Europe and northern Africa; October–May in Ethiopia; May-January in southern Africa; year-round in much of eastern Africa; and December-June in India. The female lays one to two eggs 4-5 days apart, the nest is incubated by both parents for 53 to 60 days, by both parents.  Both adults feed the chick which fledges between 110 to 130 days later.  It is dependent on its parents for another 7 months to a year for food.

Cape Vulture -Endangered

IMG_6345

Scientific Name:

Gyps coprotheres (faeces-eating vulture) (Forster, 1798)

English: Cape Griffon Vulture, Cape Vulture, Kolbe’s Griffon
AFR: Kransaasvoël

Scientific classification:

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Aves

Order: Falconiformes

Family: Accipitridae

Genus: Gyps

Species: coprotheres

 

 

“Gyps” is Greek for a vulture, while “coprotheres” is derived from the Greek word “kopros” meaning dung or manure and “thera” meaning to hunt or capture.

The Cape Griffon or Cape Vulture (Gyps coprotheres) is an Old World vulture. It is endemic to southern Africa, and is found mainly in South Africa, Lesotho and Botswana. They nest on cliffs and usually lay one egg per year.

Distribution, Habitat and Status

Restricted to southern Africa with main colonies in South Africa and Botswana. They are now extinct as a breeding species in Namibia, Zimbabwe and Swaziland. Approximately 10 000 individuals’ left and 4000 breeding pairs. Breed and roost on cliff face ledges.

Distinctive Behaviour

Roosts and builds its stick-nests in colonies of several hundred birds on high cliffs, which become streaked with white droppings. Sunbathes and soars around the nest cliffs, gliding out over the surrounding country to search for carrion. They descend in large numbers to feed at carcasses, often with other vulture species. They argue over food with harsh, grating calls or stand with wings outstretched to appear larger and claim their share of the food. They are incredibly clean birds who love to bath after each meal using ponds and pools of water to splash and preen until spotless.

Appearance

Heavy, pale, long-necked vulture. Pale cream with black flight feathers. Line of dark blobs along greater wing coverts. Bill and cere black; eyes yellow, skin blue. Juvenile darker brown with pink neck skin and dark eye. Very large (about 95cm tall, 2,55m wingspan). Weight average 11kgs.

Reproduction

The female lays a single egg, and shares the responsibilities of incubation and feeding with her lifelong mate, the pair breeds in winter. In March and April the birds pair up and either re-occupy old sites or build a new nest from grass, plants and sticks. The incubation period is 54 days and duties are shared by both parents. By July most of the birds are caring for recently hatched chicks; one parent remains on the nest and waits patiently for their partners to return from foraging. It will be four months before the chicks venture out of the nest to take their first flight, this doesn’t mean that they are fully independent as they will frequently return to the nest for feeding.

Egyptian Vulture – Endangered

egyptian_vultureScientific Name:

Neophron percnopterus (Linnaeus, 1758)

English: White scavenger vulture, Egyptian Eagle
AFR: Egiptiese Aasvoël

Scientific classification:

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Aves

Order: Accipitriformes

Family: Accipitridae

Genus: Neophron

Species: percnopterus

Neophron, is a character in the pseudo-mythological stories of Antoninus Liberalis, who was changed into a vulture by Zeus, because of trickery. The Greek words “percnos” (dusky) and “pterus” (wing) refer to the dark flight feathers. Egyptian Vultures used to be abundant along the Nile River and were even depicted by Ancient Egyptians. Their close association with people earned them the name ‘Pharaoh’s chickens’. Found mainly in

The Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus) is an Old World vulture. It is found mainly in south western Europe to Northern Africa and India. They nest on cliffs and usually lay two eggs per clutch per year.

Distribution, Habitat and Status

Distributed throughout Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Andorra, Angola, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Benin, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Croatia, Cyprus, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, France, Georgia, Ghana, Gibraltar, Greece, Guinea, India, Iran, Islamic Republic of Iraq, Israel, Italy, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Libya, Macedonia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Mali, Malta, Mauritania, Moldova, Montenegro, Morocco, Namibia, Nepal, Niger, Nigeria, Oman, Pakistan, Palestinian Territory – Occupied, Portugal, Romania, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Serbia, Somalia, South Sudan, Spain (Canary Is.), Sudan, Syrian Arab Republic, Tajikistan, Tanzania, United Republic of Togo, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan, Western Sahara and Yemen.  Regionally extinct in South Africa. The estimated global population size is 20,000-61,000 individuals, roughly equivalent to 13,000-41,000 mature individuals, although further validation of this estimate is needed.  Roosting varies around the world although they typically nest on ledges or in caves on cliffs, crags and rocky outcrops, but occasionally also in large trees, buildings (India), electricity pylons and very rarely on the ground.

Distinctive Behaviour

The Egyptian vulture is usually seen singly or in pairs, soaring in thermals, or perched on the ground or atop a building. On the ground, they walk with a waddling gait. They feed on a range of food, including mammal faeces (including those of humans), insects in dung, carrion, vegetable matter, and sometimes small animals.  A shy vulture it will wait at the edges of the feeding frenzy at a carcass until the larger species leave.  Their nests are made of sticks and lined with masses of wool, hair, rags or the remains of food, and measures 1.5 metres across.

Appearance

55-65 cm tall with a wingspan 1.55-1.70m.  Adults have largely white to pale grey plumage, which contrasts markedly with the black flight-feathers and the bold yellow bare skin on the face. The long, narrow bill has a yellow, ending with a black tip. The tail is short and wedge-shaped. The legs may be greyish-white, pink or pale yellow.  Juveniles are largely dark brown with contrasting area of pale buff. Weight 1.6 – 2.2kg.

Reproduction

The female normally lays two eggs, which are incubated by both parents for 42 days. They also both feed the chicks until fledging between 70 – 85 days.

Eurasian Griffon – Least Concern

 

(Photo Credit: Bettina Boemans)

(Photo Credit: Bettina Boemans)

Scientific Name:

 Gyps fulvus (Hablizl, 1783)

English: Eurasian Griffon, Griffon Vulture

Scientific classification:

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Aves

Order: Acciptriformes

Family: Aciptridae

 

The Eurasian/Griffon vulture (Gyps fulvus), “Gyps” is Greek for vulture, while “fulvus” the Latin name ,as in where the English word derived from (fulvous) meaning a specific dull redish-yellow or tawny colouration. The Eurasion/Griffon Vulture (Gyps fulvus) is an Old World Vulture. They are native to a large variety of countries, having a very large range.

16931030_1595227460494530_1962856986_o

(Photo Credit: Bettina Boemans)

Distribution, Habitat and Status

 These birds have a variety of types of environments, from mountains to semi-dessert areas. A few of the Eurasian Vulture’s geographical range of countries where they occur natively is Afganistan, Algeria, Austria, Bulgaria, China, Greece, Italy, Isreal, Mangolia, Spain, Turkey, Nepal, Northern Africa.

Due to these species large range and population size, they don’t fall under the “Vulnerable” category of the range size and population trend criterion of IUCN. They have a preliminary estimate of the global population size of 648 000 – 688 000 mature individuals. Their population appears to be at the increase in it’s Europe range (Birdlife International 2015) These vulture species have been reintroduced into France, in central Asia the population appears to be stable and are regionally extinct in Romania. On the other hand in North Africa and Turkey they are declining due to persecution, shooting, poisoning and loss of suitable food due to changes in farming practices (Birdlife datazone International) .They have a variety of types of environments, from mountains to semi-dessert areas

 Distinctive Behaviour

 Some birds migrate, mostly on their own, spending their winters in Africa where others are residents or nomads (del Hoyo et al. 1994). They rely on soaring flight and can fly at altitudes up to 10,000 m. These birds hunt on their own and congregate at food sources. Their nests are built on rocky outcrops where they also roost as a colony of birds. They feed mostly on carrion, mainly large mammals.

 Appearance

 Eurasian vultures are large Old World Vultures, they hatch naked, have a very white head , broad wings and short tail feathers. It has a white neck ruff and yellow bill. The buff body and wing coverts contrast within the dark flight feathers. They have streaks with a Reddish brown coloration. They are 93 – 122 cm (37 – 48 in) long with a 2.3 – 2.8 m (7.5 – 9.2 ft) wingspan. The males weigh 6.2 to 10 kg ( 14 to 23 lb ) and females weigh 6.5 to 11.3 kg ( 14 to 25 lb ).

 Reproduction

 First breeding start at 4 to 5 years of age. Griffon Vultures normally breeds in colonies on cliffs/rocky outcrops. In some places like the Monfrague National Park in Spain, the Griffon Vulture breeds in tree nests build by the Cinereous Vulture. They lay only 1 egg, incubation between 47 and 57 days. Time of young spent in the nests is between 113 and 159 days (Mebs & Schidt 2006).

Eurasian Black Vulture – Near Threatened

16935985_1596210170396259_1329652138_o

(Photo Credit: Bettina Boemans)

Scientific name:

 Aegypius monachus (Linnaeus 1766)

English: Cinereous vulture, Eurasian black vulture, Black Vulture, Monk Vulture.

 Scientific classification:

 Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

 Class: Aves

 Order: Acciptriformes

 Family: Acciptridae

The Eurasian Black Vulture (Aegypius monachus) , one of the largest gyps species. This is the largest raptor in Europe. “Aegypius comes from the Greek word ‘Vuture’ and monachus leads to this bird’s other name ‘Monk Vulture’ which is directly translated from the German name, Monchsgeier meaning bald head and ruff neck, having feathers like monk cowls.

Distributi16880568_1596210057062937_1948023240_oon, Habitat and Status 

 These birds largest population occurs in Spain and small populations in France, Portugal, Greece, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Russia and Turkey. Outside of Europe they occur in Caucasus, China Russia, Iran, India, Korea and Japan (Gwin 2009). They are found in lowland areas as well as mountainous areas. Breeding on slopes with forests and in Spain they nest in the pine and oak forests. The adult birds are mostly sedentary with the juveniles dispersing over larger areas.Their global number estimate between 7800 – 10 500 pairs, 15600-21000 individual adult bids. They are regionally extinct in Cyprus, Italy, and Romania, they have been reintroduced in France.

Distinctive Behaviour

 These birds migrate, but the adults mostly sedentary and the juveniles dispersing over larger areas. They search food mostly from flight but are dependant on good weather, the feed on carrion of all sizes, rabbits to larger deer or cows. These birds are capable of killing small prey like rabbits if the animals are injured or sick. In Spain rabbits are an important part of the vultures diet and the decline of the rabbits has led to a decline in it’s important food (Moreno-Opo 2009).

Appearance

 One of the largest Old World Vultures . They have broad wings, short wedge shaped tail. Their length is about 98 – 107 cm. Coloration is all dark brown with the juveniles being more blackish. Bare skin on the head and neck, bluish-grey in color, with the heads covered in blackish down. Massive beaks.

Reproduction

The Eurasian Black Vulture/Cinereous Vulture has the longest breeding period of all raptors in Europe with an incubation period that can vary between 50 – 68 days with one egg per breeding season. The young spend between 110 and 120 days at the nest )Moreno-Opo & Gull 2007). The nests are normally built on trees, sometimes on cliffs and even on the ground (Mebs & Schmidt 2006).

Hooded Vulture – Critically Endangered

IMG_8851

Scientific Name:

Necrosyrtes monachus (“a monk-like (bird) that drags away the dead)(Temminck, 1823)

English: Hooded Vulture
AFR: Monnikaasvoël

Scientific classification:

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Aves

Order: Acciptriformes

Family: Accipitridae

Genus: Necrosyrtes

Species: monachus

 

 

The genus name is derived from the Greek work nekros (corpse) and surtes (to pull) and refers to the feeding habits of vultures. Monachus is Latin for ‘monk’, referring to the hooded appearance.

The Hooded Vulture (Necrosyrtes monachus) is an Old World vulture. It is endemic to southern Africa, and is found mainly in mainly in Northern sub-saharan, Eastern and Central regions of Africa as well as South Africa. They nest in trees and usually lay one egg per year.

Distribution, Habitat and Status

Distributed throughout Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, The Democratic Republic of the Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Liberia, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Africa, South Sudan, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, United Republic of Togo, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The species is often associated with human settlements, but is also found in open grassland, forest edge, wooded savannah, desert and along coasts, occurring up to 4,000 m, but is most numerous below 1,800 m. The Hooded Vulture is one of the data deficient tree nesting species which VulPro is currently researching, following evidence of declines across its range; the total population has been estimated at a maximum of 197,000 individuals.

Distinctive Behaviour

Roosts and builds its nests in Baobab trees most commonly.  The feed on insects, carrion and are known to follow ploughs to eat exposed larvae and insects, as well as making use of rubbish dumps for carrion.  The adults are very quiet and hardly vocalise.

Appearance

Smaller and shyer than other vultures, they stand between 67-70 cm, with the female being larger than the male. Small, scruffy-looking, mostly brown vulture, with long thin bill, bare crown, face and front of the neck, conspicuous ear-holes, and downy nape and hindneck. Perches hunched with wings drooping. Juveniles usually have a pale blue face and hood of short down dark brown rather than beige. Average weight 2kg and wingspan 1.6m

Reproduction

In West Africa and Kenya it breeds throughout the year, but especially from November to July. Breeding in north-east Africa occurs mainly in October-June, with birds in southern Africa tending to breed in May-December. It nests in trees and lays a clutch of one egg. Its incubation period lasts 46-54 days, followed by a fledging period of 80-130 days. Young are dependent on their parents for a further 3-4 months after fledging.  Very little is known about the species’ breeding habits, research is being conducted

Himalayan Vulture – Near Threatened

Photo Credit: Yves Thonnerieux

Photo Credit: Yves Thonnerieux

 

Scientific name

Gyps himalayensis (Hume, 1869)

English: Himalayan Vulture

Scientific classification

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Aves

Order: Acciptriformes

Family: Aciptridae

Distribution, Habitat and Status

The Himalayan Vulture is native to Afghanistan; Bangladesh; Bhutan; China; India; Kazakhstan; Kyrgyzstan; Malaysia; Mongolia; Myanmar; Pakistan; Tajikistan; Thailand; Uzbekistan, east through the Himalayan mountain range in India, Nepal and Bhutan, to central China and Mongolia. It is regarded as a widespread altitudinal migrant in Nepal (C. Inskipp and H. S. Baral in litt. 2011, M. Virani in litt. 2014). It appears to be relatively common in Omnogovi province, especially in Gobi Gurvansaikhan National Park, Mongolia, and some adjacent massifs (D. L. Yong in litt. 2013).  The species has become an almost annual, but rare, winter visitor to Thailand and the Thai-Malay Peninsula (D. L. Yong in litt. 2011, C. Kasorndorkbua in litt. 2012), and has reached the Riau islands. It is a scarce and local, but increasing, winter visitor to Bangladesh, where all birds recorded have been immatures (P. Thompson in litt. 2014).

This species has been uplisted to Near Threatened on the basis that it is suspected that it will undergo a moderately rapid population decline over the next three generations owing to the impacts of diclofenac use in livestock, a drug that has caused drastic declines in other Gyps species and appears to be fatal to this species when ingested. The distribution of this species and existing efforts to reduce diclofenac use may limit the impacts.

This species inhabits mountainous areas, mostly at 1200-5000 m. In winter it moves lower down, with juveniles wandering into the plains. It feeds on carrion and regularly visits carcass dumps in South and South-East Asia. This species global population size has not been quantified but the suggested six-figure population would be realistic (Ferguson-Lees and Christie 2001), placed in the band for 100 000 – 500 000 individuals. It is suspected that this species’s population will undergo a decline of 25 – 29% over the next three generations, due to the expected impacts of diclofenac the toxic non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs used in livestock that caused drastic declines in three other Gyps species in South Asia. Other potential threats include habitat degradation and a shortage of suitable nesting sites (H. Kala in litt. 2013), as well as the ingestion of herbicides, insecticides and fungicides (Acharya et al. 2009). On the Qinghai-Tibet plateau the main threats appear to be chemical control for pika (Ochotona spp.) and the removal of livestock carcasses (X. Lu in litt. 2016). In Thailand lack of natural food sources has been the sole reason for birds (20 juveniles) being admitted to the Kasetsart University Raptor Rehabilitation Unit (C. Kasorndorkbua in litt. 2012).

Distinctive Behaviour

Feeding mainly on carrion, like its other griffon relatives, this species fall in the middle of the pecking order at a carcass. Dominated by the Cinereous vulture.

Appearance

The Himalayan Vulture closely relates to the European Griffon, big and bulky, 115-122 cm in length and weighs up to 10 kg. The wingspan is around 260cm. The head and upper neck are covered with soft white down feathers while the lower neck has a sandy-brown ruff. The bird has a sandy-brown body with grey-brown primaries and secondaries and a short, square black tail. It has a large heavy yellow bill, yellow eyes, and fleshy pink legs. There is no sexual dimorphism and the juvenile members are generally dark brown with whitish streaks with brown neck ruff and a black beak.

Reproduction

The birds make massive nests on the ledges of inaccessible cliffs. These nests are made of branches, sticks and trash heaped into a loose untidy pile. The same nests are used for several years, the pairs repairing them with new material every year. Nests in April and early May contain on one egg. Chicks hatched in end-May and in mid-July. Clutch Size: 1 egg with an incubation period of about 50 days, the young Fledge in about 4-5 months.

Indian Vulture – Critically Endangered

Indian Vulture

Scientific name

Gyps indicus (Scopoli, 1786)

English: Indian Vulture, Long-billed Vulture

Scientific classification

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Aves

Order: Acciptriformes

Family: Aciptridae

The Indian Vulture/Long-Billed Vulture (Gyps indicus), “Gyps” is Greek for vulture, while “indicus” is the classical greek word for “India” named in taxonomic terms. These are Old World Vultures that are native to India and Pakistan.

Distribution, Habitat and Status

Gyps indicus breeds in south-east Pakistan and peninsular India south of the Gangetic plain, north to Delhi, east through Madhya Pradesh, south to the Nilgiris, and occasionally further south (Collar et al. 2001). The species was first recorded in Nepal in 2011 (Subedi and DeCandido 2013). It was common until very recently, but since the mid-1990s has suffered a catastrophic decline (over 97%) throughout its range. This was first noticed in Keoladeo National Park, India (Prakash et al. 2003), where counts of feeding birds fell from 816 birds in 1985-1986 to just 25 in 1998-1999.  They are found in cities, towns and villages near cultivated areas, and in open Savanna and wooded areas.

Data indicates that the rate of population decline of the Slender-billed and Indian vulture combined has now slowed in India (Prakash et al. 2012).Extensive research has identified the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) diclofenac to be the cause behind this rapid population collapse (Green et al. 2004, Oaks et al. 2004a, Shultz et al. 2004, Swan et al. 2005). This drug, used to treat domestic livestock, is ingested by vultures feeding on their carcasses leading to renal failure causing visceral gout (Oaks et al. 2004a,b; Swan et al. 2005, Gilbert et al. 2006).  In 2007, the total Indian population, based on extrapolations from road transects, was estimated at 45,000 individuals.

Distinctive Behaviour

The Indian vulture feeds almost entirely on carrion, and often associates with White-rumped vulture when scavenging at rubbish dumps and slaughterhouses.

Appearance

Adult has pale plumage on body and upper wing coverts. Flight feathers and tail are dark brown to blackish. Neck is mainly blackish with white down forming small white spots. We can see a whitish ruff at the neck base. The underparts are sandy-brown with broad paler stripes. In flight, we can see a conspicuous broad black trailing edge. The elongated head is brownish with white down on crown and nape, as on neck. Bill is slender and pale yellow. Eyes are brown. Legs and feet are blackish-brown. Both sexes are similar. Juvenile has darker plumage.

Reproduction

It nests almost exclusively in colonies on cliffs and ruins, although in one area, where cliffs are absent, it has been reported nesting in trees.

 Lappet-faced Vulture – Endangered

IMG_6560-2

Scientific Name:

Torgos tracheliotos (Forster, 1791)

English: Lappet-faced Vulture, Nubian Vulture
AFR: Swartaasvoël

Scientific classification:

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Aves

Order: Acciptriformes / Falconiformes

Family: Accipitridae

Genus: Torgos

Species: tracheliotos

“Torgos” is New Latin derived from Greek for a vulture; probably akin to Old English “storc” stork

The Lappet-faced or Nubian Vulture (Torgos tracheliotos) is an Old World vulture.  It is endemic to the Middle East and Africa, where it is found from the southern Sahara to the Sahel, down through east Africa to central and northern South Africa. They nest in large flat nests in thorny trees and usually lay one egg per year.

Distribution, Habitat and Status

Endemic throughout Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, The Democratic Republic of Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Djibouti, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea; Ethiopia, Gambia, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Oman, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Somalia, South Africa, South Sudan, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda; United Arab Emirates, Yemen, Zambia and  Zimbabwe. Thought to be extinct in Syria, Israel, Jordan and the occupied Palestinian Territory.

Lappet-faced Vulture inhabits dry savannah, arid plains, deserts and open mountain slopes, up to 3,500 m, with isolated trees such as flat-topped acacias where it may build a nest.

The African population is at least 8,000 individuals, and there may be 500 in the Middle East. This gives a total population of at least 8,500 individuals, roughly equivalent to 5,700 mature individuals. Breed and roost at the top of tall Acacia, Balanites and Terminalia trees.

Distinctive Behaviour

Is a solitary rooster and builds its stick-nests in pairs at the top of thorny trees such as the Acacia, Balanites and Terminalia trees.  They are dominant at a carcass and are able to tear the carcass open allowing other vultures to feed.

Appearance

The Lappet-faced vulture has the largest wingspan of any other vulture in Africa approx. 2.25m, they have a much shorter neck with a powerful sharp beak and bill. They are the very big vultures standing between 78-115 cm tall. They have square wings, in flight very black looking with white thighs and white bar running across leading edge of underwing. Bald, pinkish-skinned head, which changes colour with temperature or mood. Weight 4.4 – 8.5kg.

Reproduction

The female lays a single egg in a large (2m) wide nest made of twigs and shares the responsibilities of incubation and feeding with her lifelong mate, the pair breeds in winter in South Africa. Lappet-faced vultures often build only one nest, although it is also common to have one to three nests that are used alternately, and these nests are used year after year. The breeding season varies across this bird’s extensive range.

The incubation period is 54 to 56 days and duties are shared by both parents.  Chicks fledge between 125 to 135 days but will stay with the parent birds for longer.

Palm-Nut Vulture – Least Concern

Opt-6987Scientific Name:

Gypohierax angolensis (Gmelin, 1788)

English: Vulturine Fish Eagle
AFR: Witaasvoël

Scientific classification

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Aves

Order: Acciptriformes

Family: Accipitridae

Genus: Gypohierax

Species: angolensis

Gypohierax, “gyps” is Greek for ‘griffon vulture’ and “hierax” for ‘hawk’ indicating that this is not a typical vulture. The fact that it is probably more closely related to fish eagles is also emphasized by the alternative name of Vulturine Fish Eagle.

The Palm Nut Vulture (Gypohierax angolensis) is an Old World vulture. An Afro-tropical species (15°N to 29°S), distributed throughout west and central Africa and as far south as north east South Africa.  They nest in tall trees, in large stick nests 60-90cm in diameter and usually lay one egg per year.

Distribution, Habitat and Status

Is native to Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, The Democratic Republic of the Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Gambia; Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Liberia, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.  Current population is listed as stable. Breed and roost in tall trees.

Distinctive Behaviour

The species is sedentary with adults not moving more than a few kilometres, juveniles and immatures will wander vast distances; up to 400km.  The palm-nut vulture regularly eats vegetable matter. The fleshy husks of oil palm and raffia palm fruits, along with wild dates and other fruits, make up 58 to 65% of the adult diet and up to 92% of the juvenile’s. They also eat fish, crabs and inverterbrates, small mammals, birds and reptiles by hunting.  Occasionally takes carrion. Roosts in tall trees showing an attachment to the nest site and usually lays one egg a year.

Appearance

A smaller compact vulture, adults have white plumage overall, except the black back, secondary feathers and primary tips on the wings. The short tail is black with white terminal bar, very conspicuous in flight.  Under parts are white with the same black wing pattern as seen from above. White heads, with bare orange-red skin around the eyes and the bill.  Bill is black, fairly long and hooked with yellow cere. Eyes are yellow, legs and feet are pinkish. Female is slightly larger than male.  Juvenile has brown plumage and yellowish facial skin. Roughly 60 cm tall with a wingspan of 1.5m, weighing approximately 1.36 – 1.7kg.

Reproduction

The female lays a single egg, and shares the responsibilities of incubation and feeding with her mate, breeding occurs from October to May in West and Central Africa, from May to December in Angola, June to January in East Africa and August to January in southern Africa. The incubation period is 4 to 6 weeks and duties are shared by both parents. The chick normally fledges around 85 to 90 days.

Red Headed Vulture – Critically Endangered 

166f287092b93b75040a6d4829ff9df2

Scientific Name: Sarcogyps culvus (Scopoli , 1786)

English: Red Headed Vulture

Scientific classification:

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Aves

Order: Acciptriformes

Family: Aciptridae

Genus: Sarcogyps

Species: culvus

 Distribution, Habitat and Status

The Red Headed vultures are widespread throughout the Indian sub-continent and south-east Asia, in recent decades the red-headed vulture has undergone significant declines in both range and population. It has become uncommon in Nepal, and is rare in Pakistan, the north-east of Bangladesh, Bhutan, Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. It is sparsely distributed throughout most of India and remains fairly common in the west Himalayan foothills; although, it is rare or absent in some areas such as the north-eastern states of India and Gujarat. It formerly occurred in Peninsular Malaysia and Singapore but now appears to be absent. In southern China its presence has not been recorded since the 1960s, and it is nearly extinct in Thailand.

They are found in a variety of different habitats,  from open Savanna and countryside to drier deciduous forests and wooded hills. These birds are also seen like the Slender-billed and Indian vultures near human settlements with good food sources of carrion.

Red Headed vultures has been listed under IUCN’s Red List as Critically Endangered since 2007. These vultures has been affected the same as the Indian and Slender-billed where there has been a massive loss of the population due to the veterinary drug Diclofenac that is being used to treat livestock and causes kidney failure in the birds. There are other factors including the fall of large ungulates as a result of uncontrolled hunting, disease, direct persecution of the birds,

Distinctive Behaviour

Unlike most of the larger species of vulture, the red-headed vulture does not live in large groups and is most often found solitary or in a breeding pair. Courtship in this species is particularly acrobatic, with both the male and the female engaging in soaring and dramatic mutual cartwheeling displays. Once established, a breeding pair will actively exclude other red-headed vultures from their territory. They feed on carrion of a variety of species including large and small antelopes,birds, turtles and fish. In the past, it may have been excluded from feeding by larger vulture species of the genus Gyps. However, in recent years the populations of Gyps species have dramatically crashed, hence, this competitive exclusion may now be less common

Appearance

With a bright bare, red head and jet-black body, the red-headed vulture (Sarcogyps calvus) is unmistakable among vulture species. Despite being a medium-sized vulture, this species still possesses an impressive wingspan of over two metres. Both the head and legs are dark red and the neck is flanked by two broad, red folds of skin known as lappets. The black-feathered body is characterised by white patches on the flanks above the thighs, bare red patches either side of the crop and tapering wings. Males and females are similar, except for the eyes, which, in the male are white or yellowish, and dark in the female. Juvenile red-headed vultures have dark eyes and more mottled, dark brown plumage. Their length varies between 76 – 84 cm and weights from 36 – 54 kg.

Reproduction

During the breeding season (mainly December to April), each pair builds a nest at the top of a large tree or, in open areas where large trees are absent, on the top of a bush. The large, flat nest is constructed from sticks and lined, towards the centre, with leaves and dry grass . Usually a single egg is laid, with both parents sharing the incubation duties. After around 45 days the chick hatches.

Rüppells Vulture – Critically Endangered

16880067_1595226120494664_813479413_o

(Photo Credit: Bettina Boemans)

Scientific Name: 

Gyps ruppellii (Brehm, 1852)

English: Rüppells Vulture, Rüppells Griffon Vulture

Scientific Classification:

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Aves

Order: Acciptriformes

Family: Acciptridae

Genus: Gyps

Species: ruppellii

 

 

 

 

 

The Rüppells Vulture (Gyps ruppellii), “Gyps” is Greek for vulture, while “rupellii” was named in honor of Eduard Ruppell from the 19th century. He was a German explorer , collector, zoologist. The Rüppells Vulture is an Old World Vulture.

16931051_1595226657161277_1924788445_o

(Photo Credit: Bettina Boemans)

Distribution, Habitat and Status

These birds occurs throughout Sahel region of Africa, Senegal, Gambia and Mali in the west to Sudan and Euthiopia in the east, Savanna regions in the east of Africa to Kenya, Tanzania and Mozambique. Some of the countries they are native to includes: Gambia, Ghana, Kenya Rwanda, Somalia. They are vagrant in Botswana, Egypt, Lesotho, Namibia and South Africa. They are found in open areas of Acacia Woodland, grasslands and mountain regions.

The Rüppells Vulture has been up-listed by IUCN from endangered 2014 to now critically endangered in 2015, with their population in decreasing state due to habitat loss and conversion to agro-pastoral systems, decline in wild angulate population, hunted for the trading industry, persecution, collisions and poisoning. At this stage their population size in numbers are around 22 000.

Distinctive Behaviour

These are non-migratory, gregarious birds, they soar together in flocks and breed mainly in colonies on cliff faces and escarpments. Feeding on carrion.

Appearance

Rüppells Vultures are very large Old World Vultures, with a length of 1 m, wingspan of around 2.6 m and weigh up to 7 – 9 kg. They have mottled plumage feathers of brown/black with a pale brown underside. They have pale fluff covering their heads and neck white in colour with a deep brown crop patch.

Reproduction

They breed in colonies of up to 2200 birds, build large nests on the cliffs. They lay only one egg per year and both parents incubate the egg for a period of up to 55 days where the young becomes independent the next breeding season.

Slender-Billed Vulture – Critically Endangered

Slide1

(Author unknown – orientalbirdimages.org)

Scientific name

 Gyps tenuirostris (Gray, 1844)

English: Slender-billed Vulture

Scientific classification

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

 Class: Aves

 Order: Acciptriformes

 Family: Aciptridae

Genus: Gyps

Species: ruppellii

Slide1


(Author Unknown – theraptorcage.tumblr.com)

Distribution, Habitat and Status

These species are found in Bangladesh, India, Cambodia, Laos, Burma, Nepal, and Thailand, but now thought to be lost from Vietnam and Malaysia. The slender-billed vulture inhabits both open and partly wooded land, mainly in the lowlands.

The Slender-billed vulture has been categorized as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List since 2002. It formerly occurred more widely in South-East Asia, but it is now thought to be extinct in Thailand and Malaysia, and the only recent records are from Cambodia, southern Laos and Myanmar. Considerable confusion over the taxonomy and identification of Gyps vultures has occurred, making it difficult to be sure of claims for this species. However, it appears to be allopatric or parapatric with the Indian vulture where their ranges abut (or potentially do so) in northern India.

Having suffered an extremely rapid decline in numbers due to a previously unknown cause, the slender-billed vulture is in danger of imminent extinction without immediate conservation action. By 2000, dead and dying Gyps vultures were being found so frequently in Nepal and India it was thought that they were suffering from an epidemic. The unnaturally high death toll was thought to be caused by a fatal virus, but testing has revealed that the vultures were suffering from kidney failure following the consumption of cattle that had previously been treated with the anti-inflammatory drug, diclofenac.

It was once common, but in South-East Asia populations declined through the latter half of the nineteenth century and the first half of the twentieth century, and are now probably very small and restricted in distribution and limited mainly to Cambodia (where the first nests recorded in the country were recently found and surveys in 2008 recorded a total of 51 individuals at vulture ‘restaurants’ (H. Rainey in litt. 2008) and Myanmar (counts made at vulture restaurants suggest a population of c.21 individuals [Hla et al. 2010]). Given the lack of intensive agriculture and associated chemical use in South-East Asia and the continued presence of large areas of suitable habitat for the species, the primary reason behind its decline in the region is thought to be the demise of large ungulate populations and improvements in animal husbandry resulting in a lack of available carcasses for vultures (Anon 2003, 2005).

Distinctive Behavior

Feeding solely on carrion, the slender-billed vulture prefers the remains of cattle, but will also consume the carcasses of wild deer and pigs killed by tigers, as well as meat discarded by humans. The slender-billed vulture tolerates the presence of other vulture and scavenger species while it eats, gorging itself, and then resting to digest the food.The slender-billed vulture does not migrate, but when young or unpaired, can cover huge areas in flight .

Appearance

The Slender-billed vulture has a thin, nearly naked long neck. This species is darker and larger overall than the Indian vulture from 80-95 cm. Perched adults have dark bill with pale culmen; black cere.  Juveniles are very similar but have black head and necks with a hint of white down on the nape and upper neck. Underparts are pale streaked. In flight the white downy thigh patches are distinctive. Jizz is remarkably different from other Gyps vultures due to slender snake-like neck, thin elongated bill, angular crown and scruffy appearance. Eye ring is dark and does not contrast with facial skin. Head and neck skin is bare and thickly creased and wrinkled.

Reproduction

They builds compact nests in loose colonies of fewer than ten individuals at heights of seven to fifteen meters in large and leafy trees. The breeding season is between October and April, when pairs of vultures produce a single egg. Incubation duty is shared between both parents.

  White-headed Vulture – Critically Endangered

DSC_0177-1Scientific Name: Trigonoceps occipitalis (Burchell, 1824)

English: White headed Vulture
AFR: Witkopaasvoël

Scientific classification:

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Aves

Order: Acciptriformes

Family: Accipitridae

Genus: Trigonoceps

Species: occipitalis

The scientific name refers to the triangular shape of the head. The Greek word “trigono” and “ceps” mean ‘triangular’ and ‘head’ respectively, while the Latin “occipitalis” is a reference to the back of the head.

The White-headed Vulture (Trigonoceps) is an Old World vulture. It is endemic throughout sub-Saharan Africa, occurring from Senegal and Gambia east to Somalia and south to South Africa and Swaziland. They nest on tall tree tops and usually lay one egg per year.

Distribution, Habitat and Status

Endemic to Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, The Democratic Republic of the Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Somalia, South Africa, South Sudan, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, United Republic of Togo, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.  It prefers mixed, dry woodland at low altitudes, avoiding semi-arid thorn belt areas. It occurs up to 4,000 m in Ethiopia, and perhaps 3,000 m in Kenya, and ranges across the thorny Acacia-dominated landscape of Botswana. Approximately 5,500 birds are left globally. Breeds and roosts in nests on tree tops.

Distinctive Behaviour

It generally avoids human habitation. The species is thought to be a long-lived resident that maintains a territory and may generally fly lower than other vultures, often the first vulture species to arrive at carcasses. While it is often found on the periphery of vulture gatherings at large carcasses, it is also often found at small carcasses and is known to be an occasional predator of animals such as flamingos and small antelope. This vulture prefers freshly killed prey, unlike other vulture species.  At a carcass they dominate and will push all the others out of their way, except for the powerful Lappet-faced Vulture.  Unusually for vultures, they are very nimble on the ground and fights by leaping into the air and lashing out with their strong talons.  They roost at night in trees either alone or in pairs, being very shy vultures.

Appearance

78 – 85cm, stocky vulture with predominantly blackish and white plumage as an adult. Broad triangular bald head, white down on crown and nape forming a slight crest.  Bare pink skin around eyes, checks and front of the neck.  Strong hooked bill is orange with a black tip. Cere and base of the bill are blue.  Eyes are small and dull orange.  Ruffed white legs and belly separated from downy white head by its striking black breast. Black ruff. Large wings are brown with white edges in median upperwing coverts. We can see a white line along the ends of greater underwing coverts. Flight feathers and tail are black. Bare legs and talons are pinkish orange. Sexes are similar in size. Female has white inner secondaries, forming a white rectangular patch on the inner wing. Male has dark secondaries. Juvenile is dark brown with white head and brownish top of head, and white mottling on mantle. Wingspan: 2.3m; Weight: 3.3 to 5.3kg.

Reproduction

It nests and roosts in trees, most nests being in Acacia spp. or baobabs. The female lays a single egg, the egg being laid a couple of months after rains have finished and the dry season is underway. Pairs that breed have a success rate of 65-75%, however, up to 61% of pairs do not attempt to breed each year. Incubation lasts about 43 to 54 days, and is shared by both parents. Fledges at about 115 days, and is fed by parents for up to another six months.

 White-Rumped Vulture -Critically Endangered

HC Vultures (60)

(Photo Credit: Jemima Parry-Jones, Director of ICBP)

Scientific name:

Gyps bengalensis (Gmelin,1788)

English: White-Rumped Vulture, Asian White-backed Vulture, White-backed Vulture, Oriental White-backed Vulture

 

Scientific Classification:

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Aves

Order: Acciptriformes

Family: Acciptridae

Genus: Gyps

Species: bengalensis

 

 

 

 

 

The White Rumped Vulture (Gyps bengalensis), “Gyps” is Greek for vulture, while “bengalensis” is the area of origin of the subcontinent of India, South and Southeast Asia This vulture species is an Old World Vulture. In the 1980s, the global population was estimated at several million individuals, and it was thought to be “the most abundant large bird of prey in the world”.

White RumpedDistribution, Habitat and Status

The gyps bengalensis are native to Afghanistan; Bhutan; Cambodia; India; Iran, Islamic Republic of; Lao People’s Democratic Republic; Myanmar; Nepal; Pakistan; Thailand; Viet Nam. This species may be extinct in southern China and Malaysia (BirdLife International 2001). However, it disappeared from most of South-East Asia in the early 20th century and the only viable populations in the region are found in Myanmar and Cambodia, mainly in the north. Given the lack of intensive agriculture and associated chemical use in South-East Asia and the continued presence of large areas of suitable habitat for the species, the primary reason behind its decline in this part of its range is thought to be the demise of large ungulate populations and improvements in animal husbandry resulting in a lack of available carcasses for vultures (Anon 2003, 2005).

This vulture species occurs in a variety of habitats including Forests – subtropical and tropical, Savanna , Shrubland, Grasslands, artificial and terrestrial urban areas. It occurs mostly in plains and less frequently in hilly regions.

Gyps bengalensis was one of the most abundant large bird of prey in the world, this species global population almost certainly numbered several million individuals, now listed as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List since the year 2000, following dramatic declines through the 1990s across its range its global population is now estimated to fall within the band 2,500-9,999 mature individuals. Since the mid-1990s, it has suffered a massive decline (over 99%) across the Indian Subcontinent, to the point that the species is highly threatened with extinction. Extensive research has identified the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), diclofenac, to be the cause behind this rapid population collapse (Green et al. 2004, Oaks et al. 2004a, Shultz et al. 2004). This drug, used to treat domestic livestock, is ingested by vultures feeding on their carcasses leading to renal failure and causing visceral gout (Oaks et al. 2004a, 2004b; Swan et al. 2005, Gilbert et al. 2006).

Distinctive Behaviour

The White-Rumped Vulture is mostly resident/ non migrant and is also a scavenger, moving in flocks as they are social animals. They feed mostly on carcasses of dead animals both putrid and fresh, found by soaring high and spotting other scavengers.  While feeding considerable aggregations can form, and regular communal roost sites are used.

Appearance

The white-rumped vulture is a medium-sized vulture, with an unfeathered head and neck, very broad wings, and short tail feathers. It is much smaller than the Eurasian Griffon. It has a white neck ruff. The adult’s whitish back, rump, and underwing coverts contrast with the otherwise dark plumage. The body is black and the secondaries are silvery grey. The head is tinged in pink and bill is silvery with dark ceres. The nostril openings are slit-like. Juveniles are largely dark and take about four or five years to acquire the adult plumage. In flight, the adults show a dark leading edge of the wing and has a white wing-lining on the underside. The undertail coverts are black.This is the smallest of the Gyps vultures, but is still a very large bird. It weighs 3.5-7.5 kg, measures 75–93 cm in length, and has a wingspan of 1.92–2.6 m.

Reproduction

This vulture species breeds in colonies, building its nests on tall trees often near human habitations in northern and central India, Pakistan, Nepal and southeast Asia, laying one egg. Birds form roost colonies.There main nesting period is November to March with eggs being laid mainly in January. The male initially brings twigs which are arranged to form the nest by the female. Courtship involves the male billing the head, back and neck of the female. The eggs hatch after about 30 to 35 days of incubation. The young chick is covered in grey down. The parents feed them with bits of meat from a carcass. The young birds remain for about three months at the nest.

 NEW WORLD VULTURES

The New World vultures are found in warm and temperate area of the Americas. They belong to the family Catthartidae, containing seven species in five genera, including five vultures and two condors. The New World vultures were widespread in both the Old World and North America millions of years back. Other than the Old World vultures the New World vultures have an extremely good sense of smell which leads them to carcasses. Here are the following 7 New World vulture species:

American Black Vulture – Least Concern

(Photo Credit: Alan and Elaine Wilson)

(Photo Credit: Alan and Elaine Wilson)

Scientific name

Coragyps atratus (Bechstein, 1783)

English: Black Vulture, American Black Vulture.

Scientific classification

 Kingdom: Animalia

 Phylum: Chordata

 Class: Aves

 Order: Cathartiformes

 Family: Cathartidae

Genus: Coragyps

Species: atratus

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The American Black Vulture (Coragyps atratus), “Coragyps” means raven – vulture in Greek for the respective birds, while “atratus” means clothed in black in Latin. This is a New World Vulture which falls under the scientific family name, Cathartidae which means, ‘purifier’.

(Photo Credit: Tara Tanaka)

(Photo Credit: Tara Tanaka)

Distribution, Habitat and Status

 Black Vultures live year round in forested and open areas of eastern and southern United States to South America. They have expanded their range northward in the last several decades and are now seen regularly as far north as New England, but have declined in parts of the southeast, due to loss of good nest sites (Large tree hollows) may be one cause. The American Black Vulture has an extremely large range, so they do not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion. The population trend seems to be increasing and this species is evaluated as Least Concern on the IUCN Redlist.

Some of the birds withdraw in the winter from the northern part of its range where strays may wander north of their breeding range at any season, especially late summer. Some of their native countries includes: Argentina; Belize; Bolivia, Plurinational States of; Brazil; Canada; Chile; Colombia; Costa Rica; Ecuador; El Salvador; French Guiana; Guatemala; Guyana; Honduras; Mexico; Nicaragua; Panama; Paraguay; Peru.

They prefer open country and avoid higher mountains. Mostly found in flat lowlands, such as coastal plain. Forages in over open country but roosts and nests in forest.

Distinctive Behaviour

 Most abundant at low elevations, usually forage in open habitats and along roads. Some live in semirural suburbs. Black Vultures roost in undisturbed stands of tall trees, including sycamores, pines, hickories, oaks, junipers, and bald cypress, as well as structures like electrical pylons. Roost sites are often close to water and next to obstructions that generate updrafts of air, to help the flock take flight in the early morning.

Black Vultures are monogamous. They maintain strong social bonds with their families throughout their lives. They roost in large flocks, using communal roost as meeting place where foraging groups get together and to meet with their young. Black Vultures are aggressive towards nonrelatives from joining them at roosts or following tem to food sources. They are highly social birds with fierce family loyalty.

Black Vultures feed almost exclusively on carrion. These vultures have a commensalistic relationship with Turkey Vultures which have a more developed sense of smell and will follow them to the carcasses. Sometimes Black Vultures feed on floating carrion in shallow waters or will catch small fish. They occasionally kill helpless young pigs, lambs, turtle hatchlings, night-herons etc and they will also investigate dumpsites and landfills.

Appearance

American Black Vultures are New World Vultures with black plumage, bare black head with white stars under the wingtips. They are compact birds with broad wing, short tails. There length is plus minus 60 -68 cm, wingspan of 1.3 – 1.5 m, with and average weight of 1600 – 2200 g.

Reproduction

They breed in dense woodlands, Nest placements Black Vultures lay their eggs directly on the ground. 1 to 3 eggs per year, 1 broods with an incubation period of 36 – 38 days. Black Vultures usually nest in dark cavities such as caves, hollow trees, abandoned buildings, brush piles, thickets, and stumps. Pair reuse successful sites for many years. Time young spend in the nest is from 70 – 98 days.

 Andean Condor – Near Threatened

 

(Photo Credit: Anzelle van Wyk)

(Photo Credit: Anzelle van Wyk)

Scientific name

 Vultur gryphus (Linnaes 1785)

English: Andean Condor, Great Condor South American Condor.

 

 Scientific classification

 Kingdom : Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

 Class: Aves

Order: Cathartiformes

Family: Cathartidae

Genus: Vultur

Species: gryphus

 

 

 

 

 

Andean Condor (Vultur gryphus) “Vultur” in latin means vulture and “gryphus” in latin means Condor, which is a large New World Vulture with a bare head and mainly black plumage, living in mountainous country and spending much time soaring.

(Photo Credit: Anzelle van Wyk)

(Photo Credit: Anzelle van Wyk)

Distribution, Habitat and Status

 The Andean Condor occurs throughout the Andes in Venezuela, Columbia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Paraguay south to Argentina and Chile (Houston 1994). They occur in high montane canyons and peaks throughout the Andes, descending to the coast in southern parts of it’s range. They are found principally over open grassland and alpine regions up to 5,000 m, descending to lowland desert regions in Chile and Peru (Houston 1994, Parker et al, 1996), and over southern-beech forests in Patagonia. These vultures forage terrestrially and on marines.

These vultures has been up-listed on IUCN Red list to near threatened since 2004. There population numbers is still declining, with a population estimate of atleast 10,000 individuals, roughly equivalent to 6,500 mature individuals. This species is threatened mostly in the north of it’s range. In Venenzuela and Columbia, as well as Argentina there is re-introduction programs under way using captive bred individuals to increase their numbers (Hilty and Brown 1986, Houston 1994).

They have several threats which their main threat is being excessively shot, also captured for Indian rituals, poisoning and in some areas a lack of food. They were found commonly around sea bird colonies in Peru but extirpated by guano workers to prevent them from feeding on nestling seabirds (Clements 2001).

Distinctive Behaviour

Andean’s are irruptive or local migrants (Bildstein 2006). They commute locally from high to lower altitudes in many parts of it’s range. They also engage in seasonal movements from one feeding range to another. The Soar high, either singly, in pairs or family groups of three, with larger groups rarely seen. Andean’s are dominant over all other bird scavengers. They feed mostly on carrion, but they can also kill helpless prey like newborn animals. Several birds may gather at a single carcass.

Appearance

The Andean Condor is one of the New World Vultures. They are mostly black, but ales have a distinctive white ‘collar’ around their necks and some white markings on their wings as well. The males have dark eyes, where the females have red eyes. Other than their relatives the California condors the Andean Condors have bald heads. This is the largest flying bird in the western hemisphere with a the largest wingspan of all the birds in the world, reaching 3.2 m in length, with a body weight that can easily reach 15 kg.

Reproduction

These long-lived birds have survived over 75 years in captivity, but they reproduce slowly. A mating pair produces 1 egg/ offspring per year, and both parents must take care for their young for a full year. They roost communally on inaccessible cliffs and rocky outcrops, locations known as “condoreras”. No nest is built but one egg is laid in a natural cavity in rockpiles or in a cave high in a cliff.

 California Condor – Critically Endangered

 

california-condor-glenn-simmons-285Scientific name

Gymnogyps californianus (SHAW, 1797)

English: California Condor

Scientific classification

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

 Class: Aves

 Order: Cathartiformes

Family: Cathartidae

Genus: Gymnogyps 

Species: californianus

California Condor (Gymnogyps californianus) “Gymno- meaning naked, stripped, bare in comb, “-gypsmeaning vulture in latin and “californianus” based on their origin in California. Also is a large New World Vulture.

California_Condor

Distribution, Habitat and Status (Photo Credit: Alyssa Kapnik)

This species declined rapidly throughout its historic range from British Columbia to Baja California during the 19th century and reportedly disappeared from outside California, USA, in 1937 (Wilbur and Kiff 1980, L. Kiff in litt. 2009). The population had dropped to a low of just 22 birds by 1981, and in 1983 eggs were first taken from wild nests for captive-rearing; in 1987 the species became extinct in the wild when the last of the six wild individuals was captured to join a captive-breeding recovery programme involving 27 birds (Wilbur and Kiff 1980, Toops 2009), the last bird was removed from the wild the 19-04-1987. These birds had been up listed on IUCN’s Red Data List to Critically Endangered since 1994Due to intensive captive breeding efforts the population increased to 223 birds by August 2003, comprising 138 in captivity, and 85 reintroduced in California and northern Arizona (L. Kiff in litt. 2003). In January 2010, the number of released birds that had produced viable offspring stood at 44, with 60 of breeing age (J. Grantham in litt. 2010). There population size is increasing

The California Condor’s range includes rocky, open-country scrubland, coniferous forest and oak savanna. Cliffs, rocky outcrops or large trees are used as nest sites (USFWS 1996).

The drastic population decline during the 20th century is principally attributed to persecution and accidental ingestion of fragments from lead bullets and lead shot from carcasses (C. N. Parish in litt. 2012), resulting in lead poisoning. Lead poisoning remains a key threat for released birds (Kelly et al. 2014) and has caused many fatalities and resulted in the treatment of many more birds (Anon. 2001, Parish et al. 2007, Walters et al. 2010); 9 of 13 birds released at the Pinnacles National Monument in California had to be recaptured and tested for lead poisoning after feasting on a field of squirrel carcasses shot by hunters using lead-shot in 2006. It is particularly prone to the threat of lead-poisoning owing to its longevity and delayed-onset breeding strategy, and given the distances it travels to forage, meaning lead can build up in the blood to dangerous levels over many years having been ingested over a broad area (Hunt et al. 2007). Shooting and accidental poisoning continue to be the principal threats to condors and at current levels threaten the long-term sustainability of reintroduced populations (Cade 2007), but lead ammunition is being banned within the species’s range in California and there are increasing indications that the federal government will gradually phase out the use of lead across the U.S. Despite efforts to reduce the threat of lead-poisoning, it is reported that over 90% of condors released in Arizona still test positive for lead (Toops 2009) and in January 2010 three birds were found to have died from lead-poisoning in northern Arizona (Flagstaff 2010).

Distinctive Behaviour

Roosting sites in isolated rocky cliffs, rugged chaparral, pine covered mountains 2000-6000 ft above sea level.Foraging area removed from nesting/roosting site (includes rangeland and coastal area – up to 30 km commute one way).It scavenges on the carcasses of large mammals and also feeds on the carcasses of small mammals, but perhaps only where there are sufficient numbers at one site (L. Kiff in litt. 2009). Released birds have become increasingly independent in finding food and may range more than 400 km from release sites (Anon. 1998)

The California Condors are extremely curious, sometimes circling low over groups of people. Attracted to herds of cattle. May scan for weak individuals. Some overlap in nest site use with turkey vultures and feed on the same carcasses as ravens, turkey vultures, golden eagles and coyotes. Cattle carcasses (of calves) preferred food source. Although carrion eaters, prefer fresh meat – includes deer, elk, pronghorn, smaller mammals. They live up to 45 years in captivity and probably around 20 years in the wild

Appearance

Adults are black with white triangular underwing linings and edges (acquired by 6th year), head color change from dark gray to orange between 4 – 6 years, the head and necks are naked and the clours vary from gray, yellow and red with a purplish-red patch on ventral side of the neck. The ruff on their lower neck can be elevated to conceal most of the neck. Their tails are wedge-shaped. They have silvery gray or white beaks, pink legs. The males and females look the same. They weigh between 8 – 13 kg and has a wingspan of 2.75 m.

Reproduction

All cathartids are cavity dwellers. No conventional nests. One egg is laid in caves, cliffs, potholes or crevices among boulders. They prefer course gravel as a substrate, banking the egg with rock, debris, otherwise no nesting material. Females usually lays one egg every other year because of prolonged care of young into its second year. The egg is laid from a standing position approximately 1 month after copulation in early Mid January – Mid March with an incubation time of 54-58 days. The chicks are fed several times a day by both parents for first few weeks of life. Later fed only once a day, the chicks may walk from nest site about 5 months after hatching.

 Greater Yellow-headed Vulture – Least Concern

Scientific name

Cathartes melambrotus (Wetmore, 1964)

English: Greater Yellow-headed Vulture.

Scientific classification

 Kingdom: Animalia

 Phylum: Chordata

 Class: Aves

 Order: Cathartiformes

 Family: Cathartidae

Genus: Cathartes

Species: melambrotus

(Photo Credit: Neotropical Birds - The CornellLab of Ornithology)

(Photo Credit: Neotropical Birds – The CornellLab of Ornithology)

Distribution, Habitat and Status

The Greater Yellow-headed Vulture is ecologically separated from the other members of the genus, occurring exclusively over large tracts of undisturbed lowland forest in Amazonia and the Guyanas. Some of their native countries are Bolivia, Plurinational States of; Brazil; Colombia; Ecuador; French Guiana; Guyana; Nicaragua; Panama; Peru; Suriname; Venezuela.

This species has a very large range and even though this species appears to be decreasing, the decline is not believed to be sufficiently rapid to approach the threshold for Vulnerable under the range size criterion and population trend criterion and for this reason the species is listed as Least Concern since 2004.

 Distinctive Behaviour

With its highly developed sense of smell, it soars over forests in search of recently deceased forest mammals such as primates, sloths and opossums. In some areas where it occurs with and competes with the Turkey Vulture, the Greater Yellow-headed Vulture is dominant.

Appearance

Due to confusion with the smaller Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture, the Greater Yellow-headed Vulture was not described as a species until 1964; the two yellow-headed vultures differ in size, and in subtle differences in the coloration of the head and in the color pattern on the underside of the wing.

Reproduction

Perhaps due to its preference for undisturbed lowland rainforest and the general inaccessibility of this habitat, no nest site has ever been found for this species.

King Vulture – Least Concern

(Photo Credit: Jemima Parry-Jones, Directer of ICBP)

(Photo Credit: Jemima Parry-Jones, Directer of ICBP)

Scientific name

Sarcoramphus papa (Linnaeus, 1758)

English: King Vulture

Scientific classification

 Kingdom: Animalia

 Phylum: Chordata

 Class: Aves

 Order: Cathartiformes

 Family: Cathartidae

Genus: Sarcoramphus

Species: papa

 

 

 

King vultures are found from Mexico south to Argentina. Some suggest that the bird’s name stems from an old Mayan legend in which this vulture was a “king” or “lord” that carried messages between humans and the Gods.

(Photo Credit: Jemima Parry-Jones, Director of ICBP)

(Photo Credit: Jemima Parry-Jones, Director of ICBP)

Distribution, Habitat and Status

Some of the King Vulture’s native countries include :Argentina; Belize; Bolivia, Plurinational States of; Brazil; Colombia; Costa Rica; Ecuador; El Salvador; French Guiana; Guatemala; Guyana; Honduras; Mexico; Nicaragua; Panama; Paraguay; Peru; Suriname; Trinidad and Tobago; Uruguay; Venezuela

King Vultures live predominantly in tropical lowland forests stretching from southern Mexico to northern Argentina, generally they live in undisturbed forest in the lowland tropics. They have been found in savannas and grasslands when it is close to a forest. They can be found at elevations up to 1200 m. Little is known about king vultures in the wild, but it is believed that they live in the emergent layer of the forest, which is the top most part of the trees above the canopy. Their hard to reach preferred habitat could be why we do not know much about them. (Fe Roy, 1998; del Hoyo, et al., 1994).

The King Vulture has been placed in the IUCN’s Red List Species under Least Concern since 2004 hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations), Partners in Flight estimated the population to number fewer than 50,000 individuals (A. Panjabi in litt. 2008). Ferguson-Lees et al. (2001) suggest it is likely to number 1,000-10,000 individuals, roughly equating to 670-6,700 mature individuals. The population is suspected to be in decline owing to ongoing habitat destruction.

Distinctive Behaviour

King vultures stay in family units and do not congregate in large groups. They remain out of sight for the most part, sitting high in the canopy or flying and soaring high in the air looking for food. They are not migratory and are seen in the same areas all year long. Unlike some other vultures, king vultures do not have a well-developed sense of smell. They rely on other vultures to find prey and will then descend to take part in feeding. King vultures are very rarely aggressive, and will usually back down before fighting. Because of their large wings and bodies they depend totally on air currents for flight, they do not flap their wings unless absolutely necessary (Chaffee Zoo, Date Unknown; De Roy, 1998; del Hoyo., 1994).

Appearance

King vultures has a beautiful colorful look that distinguishes them from other vulture species. They are predominately white, with black tails and wing tips. They have piercing, often straw-colored eyes and multicolored (yellow, orange, and red) bald heads and necks. Their wingspan is between 180 to 198 cm, and from head to tail they are about 71 to 81 cm. An adult can weigh from 3 kg (6.6lbs) up to more than 4.5 kg (9.9lbs).

Reproduction

King vultures are solitary birds and do not nest in big colonies. They usually breed during the dry season. King vultures do not build nests, rather they lay their eggs in hollows of rotting logs or stumps or crevices in trees. They usually lay only one egg which is incubated by both parents. Juveniles begin to show adult plumage after 18 months, which is also the period the juveniles will stay with the parents (Chaffee Zoo, Date Unknown; Honolulu Zoo, 2004).

Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture – Least Concern

(Photo Credit: Neotropical Birds - The CornellLab of Ornithology)

(Photo Credit: Neotropical Birds – The CornellLab of Ornithology)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scientific name

Cathartes burroyiamus atratus (Cassin, 1845)

English: Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture.

Scientific classification

 Kingdom: Animalia

 Phylum: Chordata

 Class: Aves

 Order: Cathartiformes

 Family: Cathartidae

Genus: Cathartes

Species: burroyiamus atratus

Photo Credit: By Wikipedia

Photo Credit: By Wikipedia

Distribution, Habitat and Status

Lesser occurs from eastern Mexico south through Central America, and in some ares in South America eats of the Andes and south to Uruguay. It is widespread in open areas, while Greater is confined to large areas of unbroken forest, primarily in the Amazon. This species is a Intratropical Migrant. There habitat is in the low seasonally wet grasslands.

The Lesser Yellow-Headed Vulture has been placed in the IUCN’s Red List Species under Least Concern since 2004 hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations), the lack of evidence also previously stated by Ferguson-Lees et al. (2001) estimated 100,000 individuals

 Distinctive Behaviour

The feeding and breeding behaviour of this species is likely similar both to that of Greater Yellow-headed Vulture and the widespread Turkey Vulture, although Lesser may be less likely to soar high overhead than either of those species. It probably locates food largely by smell, as do the other species in the genus.

Appearance

Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture closely resembles the Greater Yellow-headed Vulture, both species are largely black with yellowish heads. Lesser has less feathering on the neck, a shorter tail, and browner plumage tones than Greater.

Reproduction

A nest of Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture, in a hole in a tree, was reported from Suriname

Turkey Vulture- Least Concern

(Photo Credit: Steve Creek)

(Photo Credit: Steve Creek)

Scientific name

Cathartes aura (Linnaeus, 1758)

English: Turkey Vulture

 

Scientific classification

 Kingdom: Animalia

 Phylum: Chordata

 Class: Aves

 Order: Cathartiformes

 Family: Cathartidae

Genus: Cathartes 

Species: aura

 

 

 

 

The name Cathartes derived from the Greek “katharsis” meaning to purify, aura derived from latin “aureus” meaning golden, thus he full name means “golden purifier”.

(Photo Credit: Glenn Bartley/Vireo)

(Photo Credit: Glenn Bartley/Vireo)

Distribution, Habitat and Status

Turkey Vultures are common around open areas such as roadsides, suburbs, farm fields, countryside, and food sources such as landfills, trash heaps, and construction sites. They are particularly noticeable along roadsides and at landfills. At night, they roost in trees, on rocks, towers, poles and other high secluded spots. These birds are resident or long-distance migrants. Western birds migrate farther in large numbers moving through Central America, even as far as Venezuela, Columbia, and Ecuador.

Turkey Vultures increased in number across North America from 1966 to 2014, according to the North American Breeding Bird Survey. Partners in Flight estimates a global breeding population of 18 million with 28% spending some part of the year in the U.S., 9% in Mexico, and 1% breeding in Canada. This species has a very large range and even though this species appears to be decreasing, the decline is not believed to be sufficiently rapid to approach the threshold for Vulnerable under the range size criterion and population trend criterion and for this reason the species is listed as Least Concern since 2004.

These birds had threats of side-effect of the pesticide DDT, at least today they are very common in North America. As the California Condors, these vultures too can be affected by poisons or lead due to their diet of rotten meat. Other threats include trapping and killing due to erroneous fears that they spread disease, which is of course the total opposite.

Distinctive Behaviour

Turkey Vultures eat carrion, finding it by their excellent sense of smell. Mostly they eat mammals but will also feed on reptiles, other birds, amphibians, fish, and even invertebrates. They prefer freshly dead animals, but often have to wait for their meal to soften in order to pierce the skin, they target the softest bits first and are even known to leave aside the scent glands of dead skunks. Unlike their Black Vulture relatives, Turkey Vultures almost never attack living prey.

Appearance

Turkey Vultures appear black from a distance but up close are dark brown with a featherless red head and pale bill. While most of their body and forewing are dark, the undersides of the flight feathers (along the trailing edge and wingtips) are paler, giving a two-toned appearance.Bigger than other raptors except eagles and condors, they have long “fingers” at their wingtips and long tails that extend past their toe tips in flight. When soaring, Turkey Vultures hold their wings slightly raised, making a ‘V’ when seen head-on. There average length is 64-81 cm, weight at 2 kg and they have a wingspan of 170 – 178 cm. They glide low to the ground to be able to sniff out carcasses. They soar in smaller groups and roost in larger numbers. You may also see them on the ground in small groups around roadkills and dumpsters.

Reproduction

Turkey Vultures nest in rock crevices, caves, ledges, thickets, mammal burrows and hollow logs, fallen trees, abandoned hawk or heron nests, and abandoned buildings.While they often feed near humans, Turkey Vultures prefer to nest far away from civilisation. They don’t build full nests, they just use what the can scrape closer like leaf litter, vegetation or rotting wood. They may use these same nest sites repeatedly for years. They lay 1 – 3 eggs and with 1 broods, the incubation period last between 28 – 40 days.

Comments are closed.