Egyptian Vulture, Neophron percnopterus

Egyptian Vulture

Egyptian Vulture, Spain, May 2009, © Markus Jais

Names

English: Egyptian Vulture
Scientific: Neophron percnopterus
German: Schmutzgeier
Spanish: Alimoche común
French: Vautour percnoptère

Taxonomy ans Subspecies

Closest relative in Europe is the Bearded Vulture. Currently, three subspecies are recognized [GRIN 2009]:
  • N. p. ginginianus in India and Nepal.
  • N. p. majorensis on the Canary Islands.
  • N. p. percnopterusin the rest of the species' distribution.

Size

Length: 60-70 cm
Wingspan: 155-170 cm
Weight: 1,800-2,400 g

Maximum Age

At least 37 years in captivity (still breeding with 37 years in the zoo of Tel Aviv). [Mebs & Schmidt 2006]

Habitat

Lives in open areas or semi-open areas. Often found in canyons and other rocky areas suitable for building nests. In some regions, the Egyptian Vulture can often be found close to human settlements. It also visits garbage dumps.
In the Caucasus the species can be found breeding up to 3.000 above sea level [Mebs & Schmidt 2006].

Distribution

Occurs is South Europe, North Africa (incl. some Atlantic islands like the Canaries and Cape Verdes) and eastwards on the Balkan and in Turkey. Also in several Asian countries including the Arabian Peninsula, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, India and Nepal. In Africa the Egyptian Vultures occurs (beside North Africa) mostly in the Sahal Band (Senegal to Ethiopia) and south to Kenya and Tanzania. A few pairs probably in Angola and Namibia, maybe Mozambique. Very rare or even extinct in South Africa. [Ferguson & Christie 2001]
In Europa, largest population in Spain and Turkey. Rare in most other countries like France, Portugal, Italy, Greece, Bulgaria or Russia [Mebs & Schmidt 2006].

Migration

The European population is migratory and spends the winter in Africa south of the Sahara [SEO 2007]. Sedentary in Europe only on the Canary Islands and Balearic Islands but recently more observations during the winter in Spain (Peninsular) [Mebs & Schmidt 2006].
Most birds leave Europe in August and September and return during the End of February and March. Immature birds return in April or as late as June [Mebs & Schmidt 2006].
Other populations (Africa, India, Arabien Peninsula) are sedentary.

Breeding and Reproduction

Nests solitarily, rarely in loose colonies. Sometines the nests are close to other vultures, for example in or close to colonies of the Eurasian Griffon Vulture.
Egyptian vultures start breeding with the age of 4 or 5 years [SEO 2007]. Normally lays two eggs. The breeding time is about 6 weeks and the young stay in the nest for 70-90 days [Mebs & Schmidt 2006]. While the other European vultures only raise one chick for every successful brood, the smaller Egyptian Vulture often raises two chicks.

Food and hunting

Feeds on carrion of large animals but also takes small animals and even insects. In same places also feeds on human waste and trash. At a large carcass, the Egyptian vulture often has to wait until other bigger vultures are finished eating.
Also eats eggs. The Egyptian Vulture lifts the eggs and drops them to open them.
One of only a few birds that use tools. In Africa, Egyptian Vultures open Ostrich eggs (which are too large to lift) by throwing stones at the eggs.

Population

Considered Endangered worldwide due to dramatic decline in some places.
The European population is only about 2,000 pairs according to Mebs & Schmidt [2006]. But other sources mention between 3,500 and 5,600 for Europe [SEO 2007]. Maybe in the latter number, the population in Turkey (around 1,000-1,500 birds according to Mebs & Schmidt [2006]) is included.
Without Turkey, the number given by Mebs & Schmidt [2006] seems to be more realistic.
In Europe, by far the largest population lives in Spain with about 1.549 [Mebs & Schmidt] or between 1.300 and 1.400 pairs [SEO 2007]. Other European countries have only small populations. Portugal has a little more than 100 pairs and Greece between 50 and 100 pairs [Mebs & Schmidt 2006] or between 100 and 200 pairs [GRIN 2009].
According to Mebs & Schmidt [2006], a positive trend exists in Spain. Other sources mention a possible decline in Spain [GRIN 2009]. In France, the population has increased from 64 pairs in 1999 to 87 in 2007 [GRIN 2009].

Threats

The Egyptian Vulture faces many threats. One of the most serious problems it illegal poisoning

Conservation

Status IUCN/BirdLife

Endangered (EN)

Status Global Raptor Information Network

Endangered

Interviews about the Egyptian Vulture

Interview with Fulvio Genero about vultures in Italy

Interview with Ivaylo Angelov about the Egyptian Vulture in Bulgaria

References

[Ferguson & Christie 2001] Ferguson-Lees, James & Christie, David A. (2001). Raptors of the World. Christopher Helm, London.

[GRIN 2009] Global Raptor Information Network. 2009. Species account: Egyptian Vulture Neophron percnopterus. Downloaded from http://www.globalraptors.org on 5 Mar. 2009

[Mebs & Schmidt 2006] Mebs, Theodor & Schmidt, Daniel (2006). Die Greifvögel Europas, Nordafrikas und Vorderasiens. Kosmos Verlag.

[SEO 2007] SEO/BirdLife Spain, Juan M. Vaerla Simó 2007. Aves Amenazadas de España, Lynx Edicions.

Books

Ferguson-Lees, James & Christie, David A. (2001). Raptors of the World. Christopher Helm, London.

Forsman, Dick (1999). The Raptors of Europe and the Middle East A Handbook of Field Identification. Poyser

Mebs, Theodor & Schmidt, Daniel (2006). Die Greifvögel Europas, Nordafrikas und Vorderasiens. Kosmos Verlag.

Donázar, José Antonio & Margalida, Antoni & Campión (2009).
Buitres, muladares y legislación sanitaria: perspectivas de un conflicto y sus consecuencias desde la Biología de la Conservación.
Vultures, feeding stations and sanitary legislation: a conflict and its consequences from the perspective of conservation biology.
Sociedad de Ciencias Aranzadi.

Websites

Conservation and Research of the Egyptian Vulture in Bulgaria

LPO Mission Rapaces, Vautour Percnoptàre
The League for the Protection of Rare and Threatened Species of Birds in France have focused their conservation efforts on birds of prey including the Egyptian Vulture.

Progetto WWF Capovaccaio
Organization is devoted to captive breeding, reintroduction, and monitoring of the Egyptian Vulture.

GRIN species account for the Egyptian Vulture

BirdLife species factsheet for the Egyptian Vulture

Balkan Vulture Action Plan

Green Balkans - Vultures in Bulgaria