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Indian Vulture - BirdForum Opus

Photo by Jugal Tiwari
Kutch, Gujarat, India, September, 2008
Gyps indicus

Identification

Photo by Rajiv Lather
Rajasthan, India, January 2007

Length: 80-100 cm (31.5-39 in); weight: 5.5-6.3 kg (12-13.8 lbs); wingspan 205-229 cm (6.75-7.5 ft). A medium-sized vulture.

  • Combination of dark-skinned head, neck and crop with golden-buffy body diagnostic
  • Head and long bare neck are grey-brown and sparsely covered with white down, with a buff ruff at the base
  • Eyes brown
  • Ceres dull grey-green
  • Pale yellowish bill
  • Dark grey legs
  • Whitish lower belly and undertail-coverts
  • Light brown under-wing coverts (see flight shot)

Sexes similar. Juveniles have a pale downy neck and head and diffuse streaks on pale underparts (much paler than in White-rumped Vulture)

Similar species

Paler, tawnier and more powerfully built than Slender-billed Vulture or White-rumped Vulture. Smaller and less tawny than Eurasian Griffon or Himalayan Griffon, often lacks rufous colouration of Eurasian Griffon.

Distribution

left: Indian Vulture, right: White-rumped Vulture
Compare bill colour and colour of back
Photo by Jugal Tiwari
Kutch, Gujarat, India, August 2010

Formerly common and widespread in the Indian Subcontinent, from southeast Pakistan over much of India. Now very rare and local (see Conservation status). Range poorly documented owing to widespread confusion with Slender-billed Vulture. One record from Afghanistan doubtful.
Resident with some dispersal of young birds.

Taxonomy

This is a monotypic species.
Slender-billed Vulture was formerly considered conspecific, the species then named Long-billed Vulture.

Habitat

Occurs in semi-desert, forested hills, open areas and around human habitation.

Behaviour

Immature
Photo by Alok Tewari
Bharatpur Keoladeo National Park, Rajasthan, India, Dec-2010

Spends much of the day soaring on thermals, looking for food.

Diet

The diet consists of carrion, usually putrid, but sometimes fresh.

Breeding

Nests colonially on cliff ledges or in ruins. Locally in Rajasthan also in trees.

In Culture

In some parts of their range, it is customary for human corpses to be placed in high places, for Vultures to feed on - this practise is deeply rooted in religious and cultural traditions.

Conservation Status

This species is becoming extremely rare. The rapid decline is thought to be due to the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug Diclofenac, which is used in southern Asia as a livestock treatment. It is extremely toxic to vultures when they feed on the carcasses of treated cattle. The drug causes fatal kidney failure. Populations of White-rumped Vulture and Slender-billed Vulture have also declined by more than 90 percent in the years from 1992 and 2000. On the basis of their catastrophic declines, the IUCN-World Conservation Union has listed these species as critically endangered: the highest level of threat.

The February 2007 issue of the Smithsonian Magazine has an article on the problem and what conservationists are doing about it: [1]

References

  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, D. Roberson, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2016. The eBird/Clements checklist of birds of the world: v2016, with updates to August 2016. Downloaded from http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
  2. Rasmussen, PC and JC Anderton. 2005. Birds of South Asia: The Ripley Guide. Barcelona: Lynx Edicions. ISBN 978-8487334672

Recommended Citation

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