The Himalayan Vulture - Lammergeier (Gyps himalayagensis)

 

 

The Himalayan Vulture is an Old World Vulture belonging the Gyps genus. At a size of 103-110 cm and a huge wingspan of 260-289 cm it is also the larges Gyps vulture existing and is even bigger than Griffon Vulture and Monk Vulture.

 

The Himalayan Vulture is native to central Asian mountain ranges, plateaux and steppes. Because of its distribution in the Himalayan and especially in Tibet, it used to be the absolute symbol of the Tibetan high plateau.

 

The German zoologist described how hundreds of the Himalayan Vulture sat at the monasteries waiting to be given something to feed on. 

 

Apart from processing carcases, for centuries Himalayan Vultures have been central to the acient burial practices, the so-called sky burial. According to tradition, on the day of the burial the corpse was dismembered and given to the vultures. Tibetans believe that the vulture bring the deceased in a state between birth and rebirth, the so-called "Bardo". This burial tradition also attracts Bearded Vultures which are left to process the bones. 

 

 

himalayan vulture
Flying Himalayan Vulture - Source: Sunil Sharma/Agency iStock

 

Description - Characteristics: Himalayan Vulture

 

Breeding – Clutch – Measurements – Habitat – Diet - Threats

 

Taxonomy:

Order: Accipitriformes

Family: Accipitridae

Genus: Gyps

Species: Himalayan Vulture

 

Scientific Name: Gyps himalayensis

 

Names and Synonyms des Himalayan Vulture

 

Name in German: Himalaygeier

Name in French: Vautour de l‘Himalaya

Name in Dutch: himalayagier

Name in Italian: Gifone dell‘Himalaya

Name in Spanish: Buitre del Himalaya

Name in Finnish: Himalajankorppikotka

Name in Danish: Himalayagrib

Name in Polish: Sęp himalajski

Name in Russian: Снежный гриф

Name in Chinese: 高山兀鹫

Name in Chinese (traditional): 高山兀鷲

Name in Nepali: हिमाली गिद्ध

Name in Malaysian: Burung Hereng Himalaya, Hereng Himalaya

Name in Thailändisch: อีแร้งเทาหิมาลัย, อีแร้งน้ำตาลหิมาลัย, อีแร้งสีน้ำตาลหิมาลัย

Name in Persian: کرکس هیمالیایی

Name in Bengali: হিমালয়ী গৃধিনী

 

Description of the Himalayan Vulture

 

Distribution: Palearctic and adjacent Indomalaysian. The Himalayan Vulture is native to the central Asian mountains and distribution most of the Himalaya, Tibet, the mountain ranges of Pamir, Kirgiz, Tien shan, Tarbagatay and Altai. Countries: North Pakistan, Kashmir, India, Nepal and Bhutan through Tibet and north Assam into central China (northwest Sichuan, Qinghai, Gansu and Ningxia-Hui), enclaves in Afghanistan, former Russian and Chinese Turkestan.

 

Movements: Sedentary, but forages thereby covering vast areas. Immature Himalayan Vultures are much more nomadic after leaving the breeding area and keep wandering around in the Himalayan region.

 

Habitat: Mountain ranges, gorges, high steppes, plateaux, and sometimes also visiting lower valleys. Usually active in heights between 1200 to 2500 m. Search flights are executed in heights from 600 m to > 6000 m.

 

Behavious: Very good gliding capabilities, keeps gliding in heights over 6000 m. Colonial breeder, with colonies covering 4-6 breeding pairs. Nesting trees usually being used for several years. At times very sociable. The Himalayan Vulture that detects a carcas immediately glides down to th spot and within minutes of ist arrival another 50 plus of its own kind gather around the spot. As a group Himalayan Vultures are able to process a dead Yak down to the skeleton within 2 hours. As long as the Himalayan Vultures are at work no other species is allowed to approach the carcas. When they are ready the leave the field to the Bearded Vultures to process the bones.

 

 

Measurements

 

Size: 103-110 cm

Tail: 37-40 cm

Weight: 8.000-12.000 g

Wingspan: 260-289 cm

Wing: 790-810 mm

 

Sexually mature: Himalayan Vultures reach maturity only after 5-6 years.

Mating: Monogamous breeding pairs. Assumably, mating takes place long before the birds become sexually mature. Mating takes place during the usual courtship period in spring.

 

Clutches per breeding season1 clutch

 

Breeding

 

Breeding: as early as of December, usually between January to August, also until September by the latest.

 

Nest: Large and rough platform of sticks and branches, the nest grows in size after years of continuous use. Nest often lined with rubbish or any soft material found in the surroundings. Nest on ledges, open crevices of steep cliffs. Also uses old nests of the Lammergeier – Bearded Vulture.

 

Clutch: only one egg

Eggs: Egg with greenish white shell and scatterd rusty brown staints.

 

Egg Measurements and Weights

Length x Width: 92.6x69.6 mm

Width: ≈ ??? g

 

Recurrent clutches: unknown.

 

Incubation: ca. 50-56 days, both parents share the task of incubating

 

Fledging: Both parents feed the chicken, fledging after about 113-120 days as is the case with all Gyps vultures.

 

Dependency: After fledging the young vulture remains dependent on its parents for a period lasting 6-7 months.

 

 

Miscellaneous

 

Food: Medium and large cadavers, carrion, corpses. Forages by soaring high and watching for carcases and also watching the activities of ground predators and other aerial scavengers. Dominant vulture at carcas, except when Monk vultures are present. The Himalayan Vulture plays a vital role in the burying practices of the Himalayan people as these birds are tasked with processing the corpse of a dead person.

 

Longevity: ??? unknown.

 

Mortality: unknown.

 

Threats: Human persecution, loss of habitat. So far, the Himalayan Vulture has not been affected by the Diclofenac problem that has caused mass dying of vultures in South Asia.

 

 

 

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

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

 

 

 

External Links

 

Vultures Conservation Foundation - European Vulture Protection and Conservation

 

Image Credits

 

Egg of the Griffon Vulture: