The Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus)

 

 

The Egyptian Vulture is - by appearance - a small, slight and scruffy Old World Vulture, monotypical to the Neophron genus. Another name attributed to this vulture is White Scavenger Vulture, a name that mostly covers the appearance of this bird. For those with interest in Ancient Egypt, this vulture can also be found in Egyptian heroglyphs.

 

This vulture is more or less widely distributed across most of the Old World. That does not mean that it is endemic to Europe or Africa. In Europe it had mostly dissappeared - in other words, it had become distinct - by the 1960s. Only a massive conservation programme supporting four vultures: Bearded Vulture, Griffon Vulture, Monk Vulture and, last but not least, also the Egyptian Vulture, had been successful to help these species survive to see the advent of the 21st century.

 

 

egyptian vulture
Egyptian Vulture - source: Zwillng330/agency iStock

 

Description - Characteristics: Egyptian Vulture

 

Breeding – Clutch – Measurements – Habitat – Diet - Threats

 

Taxonomy:

Order: Accipitriformes

Family: Accipitridae

Genus: Neophron

Species: Egyptian Vulture

 

Scientific Name: Neophron percnopterus

 

Namen und Synonyme des Schmutzgeiers

 

Name in German: Schmutzgeier

Name in Czech: Sup mrchožravý

Name in Slovak: Zdochlinár biely

Name in Hungarian: Dögkeselyű

Name in Croat: Crkavica

Name in Serbian: Bela kanja

Name in French: Vautour percnoptère

Name in Dutch: Aasgier

Name in Spanish: Alimoche Común

Name in Portuguese: Abutre do Egipto

Name in Danish: Ådselgrib

Name in Swedish: Smutsgam

Name in Polish: Ścierwnik

Name in Russian: Sterwjatnik

Name in Greek: Ασπρόγυπας, Ασπροπάρης

Name in Turkey: Küçük Akbaba, Mısır Akbabası

Name in Arabic: الرخمة, الرخمة المصرية

Name in Bengali: ধলা শকুন

Name in Persian: کرکس مصری , کرکس مصری (کوچک)

Name in Sotho: सेतो गिद्ध

Name in Zulu: uPhalane

 

Description of the Egyptian Vulture

 

Distribution: Palearctic, Afrotropical and Indomalayan. Still rare in the Western Palearctic. Population is in decline in parts Africa, even extinct in some countries. Common on Atlantic Islands – Cape Verdes, Canaries; northwest Africa, southern Europe – Portugal/Spain, southern France, Pyrenees, southern Balkan; southern Ukraine, Crimea, Caucasus; Aral, Blakhas and Kazakhstan region; Asia minor – Middle East, Arabian peninsula, southwest and south Asia. Indian subcontinent: southeast Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, West Bengal, Himalayas. Africa – mainly Sahel band to north Tanzania, Angola, Namibia, Mozambique, South Africa.

 

Movements: Sedentary and nomadic on Atlantic Islands, Saharan mountains, sub-Saharan Africa, south Africa; mostly migratory in European Palearctic. Leaving Breeding area from mid August to mid September; returning to breeding area between February to April. Most birds use the Gibraltar and Bosporus/Levant routes to move around the Mediterranean.

 

Wintering For European birds the wintering quarters stretch from northern Africa southwards to the sub-Saharan Sahel band, also on the Arabian peninsula, partly in India.

 

Habitat: Lives and forages mainly in lowland, mountain open country, arid regions; also on beaches, river sand banks, wetland edges, also near human settlements, and urban areas; desert edges, high rocky plains, ravines, steppes, grassland, savannah, cultivations, rubbish dumps, harbours and villages.

 

Behaviour: Mostly solitary, rarely in small parties not exceeding 10-20 individuals.

 

Field Characteristics: Die Altvögel sind überwiegend weiß; Arm- und Handschwingen schwarz; Ober- und Unterflügeldecken sind weiß. Der Kopf ist nackt und orange-gelblich gefärbt. Juv. und imm. Individuen dunkelbraun, nackte Hautteile am Kopf sind schmutzig-fleischfarben. Schwanz ist keilförmig; das Flugbild erinnert an den Bartgeier. Legt erst im 6. Lebensjahr das adulte Alterskleid an.

 

Schnabel: dunkelbraun mit schwarzer Spitze.

Wachshaut und Gesicht: ad. = gelb bis orange; juv. = grau

 

Füße: ad. = fleischfarben oder gelb; juv. = grau.

 

Iris: ad. = rotbraun; juv. = braun.

 

Measurements

 

Size: 58-70 cm

Weight: 1600-2400 g, Ø: 2100 g

Wingspan: 155-180 cm

Wing:

♂: 48,6-51,6 cm

♀: 48,0-51,4 cm

 

Voice: Mostly silent, if any then low whistles, groans, grunts and ruttling noises are uttered

 

egg of egyptian vulture
Egg of the Egyptian Vulture - source: by Von Klaus Rassinger und Gerhard Cammerer, Museum Wiesbaden - Eigenes Werk, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=38047945

 

Breeding

 

Sexually Mature: not before 4th – 5th year.

Mating: mostly lifelong breeding pair. Copulations begin 25 days before layaing eggs, on average 9 copulatins per day.

 

Clutches per breeding season1 clutch

 

Breeding: Depends on geographical region: Southern Europe and Mediterranean: end March to early September; North Africa Canary Islands: as early as February to August/September; Cape Verde Islands: December to August; Nigeria: November to April; Sudan and Eritrea: February to August; Somalia: January to July; Kenya: May to December; India: February to Augsut

 

Nest: Small platform of twigs and little branches; initial nest is small and shallow measuring only 60-75 cm across and 20-30 cm deep. After years of consecutive use dimensions may reach 1,5 m across and 75 cm deep. Usually nest is lined with rags, matted hair, skin, mammal dung, paper, rubbish and all kind of suitable material available in the surroundings.

 

Clutch: usually two eggs (rarely 3 eggs)

Eggs: borad-oval elliptical eggs, base coloure light brown with dark brown stains.

Egg Measurements and Weights:

Length: 58.2-76.4 mm

Width: 43.0-56.1 mm

Ø 66.2x50.0 mm

Shell weight: 6.7-12.2 g; Ø 8.9 g

Egg Weight: 81.5—97.0 g; Ø 94.0 g

Recurrent Clutch: possible when clutch is lost.

 

Laying Interval: 2-4 days.

 

Beginn of Incubation: After laying the first egg.

Incubation: 42 Tage pro Ei, both parents share the task of incubating

Hatching: no recorded data available

 

Fledging: both parents feed the chicken. Fledging after 70-90 days. In most cases only the oldest chicken survives to fledge.

 

Dependency: In Europe fledging is mostly between end of July to end of August. After that the family still keeps together for several weeks. The immature will be fed by ist parents for a period of 9-34 days.

 

egyptian vulture artemy voikhansky
Egyptian Vulture - source: Von Artemy Voikhansky - Eigenes Werk, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=54625907

 

Miscellaneous

 

Food: All kind of rubbish, even feces; opportunist scavenger; unable to tear off pieces of meat off carcas. Wide variety of scraps of carrion, organic waste; only to a lesser extent insects, smaller young or injured vertrebrates of all classes. When attending to larger carcases, the Egyptian Vulture only sits on the periphery wating for the larger vulture to finish feeding and then taking the left-overs. Forages by search flight, low gliding and also soaring high over smaller distances. The largest distance recorded were 30-70 km. When on search flight the Egyptian Vulture watches the activities of the larger vultures and mammal scavengers on the ground. Takes sick and dead nestlings at Pelican and Flamingo colonies.

 

Longevity: The oldest known ringed Egyptian Vulture reached an age of >37 years (Zoo Tel Aviv).

 

Mortality: Up to their 4th year, the survival rate of Egyptian Vultures is about 18.6%Die Überlebensrate von subadulten Schmutzgeiern, bis zum 4. Lebensjahr, liegt bei 18,6%.

 

Threats: Persecution by shooting or poisoning, collisions with power lines, losses during autumn and spring migration, also during wintering.

 

 

 

References

 

Bauer, Hans-Günther, Bezzel, Einhard et. al. (HG), Kompendium der Vögel Mitteleuropas, Band 1+2, Sonderausgabe 2012, Aula Verlag, Wiebelsheim

Bauer, Hans-Günther, Bezzel, Einhard et. al. (HG), Kompendium der Vögel Mitteleuropas, Band 3, Literatur und Anhang, Aula Verlag Wiebelsheim, 2. vollständig überarbeitete Auflage 1993

Baumgart, Wolfgang, Europas Geier, Flugriesen im Aufwind, AULA-Verlag Wiebelsheim, 2001

Bezzel, Einhard, Kompendium der Vögel Mitteleuropas, Non-Passeriformes, Band 1, AULA-Verlag Wiesbaden, 1985

Bruun/Singer/König/Der Kosmos Vogelführer, Franck'sche Verlagshandlung Stuttgart, 5. Auflage 1982

Ferguson-Lees, James and Christie, David A., Raptors of the World, Houghton Mifflin Company Boston New York, 2001

Glutz von Blotzheim, Urs et. al (HG), Handbuch der Vögel Mitteleuropas, Band 4, Falconiformes, AULA-Verlag Wiesbaden, 2. durchgesehene Auflage 1989

Mebs, Theodor et. al, Die Greifvögel Europas, Franck-Kosmos Verlags GmbH, 2. Auflage 2014

Svenson, Lars et. al, Der Kosmos Vogelführer, Franck-Kosmos Verlag GmbH & Co. KG, Stuttgart, 2. Auflage 2011

 

External Links

 

Vultures Conservation Foundation - European Vulture Protection and Conservation

 

Image Credits

 

Egg of the Egyptian Vulture - source: Von Klaus Rassinger und Gerhard Cammerer, Museum Wiesbaden - Eigenes Werk, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=38047945

Egyptian Vulture #1 - source: Zwilling330/agency iStock

Egpytian Vutlure (flying) #2 - source: Von Artemy Voikhansky - Eigenes Werk, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=54625907