The Monk Vulture - Cinereous Vulture (Aegypius monachus)



The Monk Vulture is a huge bird, with dark plumage, but for the pale head. It comes across at a size of 100-110 cm and a wingspan measuring between 250-295 cm, making it one of the larges vultures in Europa, Africa and Asia.


There are several names attached to this vulture which are Black Vulture, Cinereous Vulture, European or Eurasian Black Vulture. As usual it depends on the author und which name this vulture is addressed. The Vulture Conservation Foundation addresses the bird as "Cinereous Vulture".


Names apart, the Monk Vulture lives solitary or in pairs but is also known to be quite sociable when gathering in groups. 



monk vulture
Monk Vulture - vulture head portait


Description - Characteristics: Monk Vulture


Breeding – Clutch – Measurements – Habitat – Diet - Threats



Order: Accipitriformes

Family: Accipitridae

Genus: Monk Vultures (Aegypius)

Species: Monk vulture


Scientific Name: Aegypius monachus


Names und Synonyms of the Monk Vulture


Name in German: Mönchsgeier

Name in French: Vautour moine

Name in Spanish: Buitre Negro

Name in Portuguese: Abutre-preto

Name in Italian: Avvoltoio monaco

Name in Dutch: Monniksgier

Name in Czech: Sup hnědý

Name in Slovak: Sup tmavohnedý

Name in Hungary: Barátkeselyű

Name in Finnish: Munkkikorppikotka

Name in Danish: Munkegrib

Name in Swedish: Grågam

Name in Polish: Sęp kasztanowaty

Name in Russian: Tschorny Grif

Name in Kazakh: Тазқара

Name in Mongol: Нөмрөг тас, Нохой тас, Тас, Хар тас, Хүсэн ? тас

Name in Chinese: 秃鹫

Name in Chinese (traditional): 禿鷲

Name in Bengali: কালা শকুন

Name in Nepali: राजगिद्ध

Name in Hebrew: עוזניה שחורה, עוזנייה שחורה, עזניה שחורה, עזנייה שחורה

Name in Arabic: النسر الأسود, النسر الأسود النسر, النسر الاسود

Name in Malaysian: കരിങ്കഴുകൻ

Name in Korean: 독수리

Name in Thai: แร้งดำ, อีแร้งดำหิมาลัย

Name in Turkey: Esmer Akbaba, Kara akbaba, Rahip Akbaba, Тазқара


Description of the Monk Vulture


Distribution: The Monk Vulture is a bird of the Palearctic and marginally also of the Indomalayam region. Mostly distribute across the mountainous regions of Southwest, South and Southwest Europa, as well as in central and south Asia. European breeding areas are Spain, Balearic Islands, southern France (re-introduced in the Cevennes from late 1970s), Pyrenees, eastern Greece, south Bulgaria, Crimea, Caucasus, Turkey, Iran, south Turkmenia, east Uzbekistan, southeast Kazakhstan, from Afghanistan to Baluchistan, northwest Pakistan, north and northeast India (Himachal Pradesh and Assam), Mongolia, north China and Tibet. In Africa the Monk Vulture is breeding in the north African Atlas mountain range (Morocco and Algeria) Als Brutvogel kommt der Mönchsgeier in niederen bis mittelhohen bewaldeten Berglandschaften vor. Die Art ist in der Paläarktis verbreitet. Das Verbreitungsgebiet erstreckt sich, beginnend in Zentral-Spanien über den Balkan, mit Vorkommen auf der Krim, über die Türkei nach Vorderasien und den Kaukasus bis nach Zentral- und Ostasien. In Zentralasien reichen die Vorkommen von Nord-Indien über Tibet bis in die Mongolei und nach Mittel-China.


monk vulture
Monk Vulture




Size: 100-110 cm

Tail: 32-37 cm

Weight: 7000-12500 g

♂ 7,0-11,5 kg g

♀ 7,5-12,5 kg Ø

Wingspan: 250-295 cm


♂: 73,5-82,0 cm

♀: 75,0-84,5 cm


Voice: In general, the Monk Vulture is a silent vulture that becomes more vocal when arguing with other vultures and when assembling at cadavers and carrion. Though, the sounds are no more than croaks, grunts and hisses. These sounds are also uttered in the presence of human and must not always be understood as aggressive sounds.


Sexually Mature: Monk vultures become sexually mature after the 5-6 year of age.

Mating: Monogamous breeding pairs, pairing can start in the second year already; if so mating starts in February.


Clutches per breading season: 1 Jahresbrut

Breeding: Across the entire distribution breeding begins earliest in February and can last up to August/September. In Europa, breeding begins from end of February and usually last up to March / early April.


Nest: The nest is a massive structure of sticks, usually measuring 1.5-2 m across and up to 1-3 m deep, decorated with dung and animal skin, which is gatherd by the vultures in the breeding area. Nest sits in trees such as oak, juniper, pine or conifer at levels 1.5 to 12 m. Trees grow on the ground, on rocks or cliffs, though, rarely in Europe.

In Europe nest structures are usually a bit smaller than in Asia, also measuring 140-200 cm across but only 70-100 cm deep.


monk vulture
Monk Vulture
egg monk vulture
Egg of the Monk Vulture - source: Didier Descouens - Eigenes Werk, CC BY-SA 4.0,


Clutch: 1 Egg

Eggs: Eggs are rump to round oval or even elliptical, white shell with rusty brown stains.

Egg – Measures and Weights:

Length: 81.5-101.0 mm

Width: 64.5-75.0 mm

Ø: 92.0x70.1 mm

Weight of an freshly laid egg: 252 g

Eggshell: 21.0-30.0 g; Ø 24.3 g (n=100)


Recurrent Clutch: ???.


Incubation: 54-56 days, both parents share the task of incubating. /p>


Fledging: Some of the jung vultures leave the nest already after 80-90 days, though, mostly they fledge after 110-120 days. The chicken is fed by both parents.


monk vulture
Monk Vulture


Food: The Monk Vulture almost entirely depends on a sufficient supply of cadavers and carrion. Upon rare occasions when living animals are cut down by the vultures we are talking weak and ill animals. The Monk Vulture lacks the ability to prey on healthy animals simply because of its sheer weight and the huge wingspan, the latter especially preventing it from fast flights, and also from abruptly switching from gliding into dive. Monk Vultures don’t do fast at all, if any they glide down to the prey out of the incredible heights at which they perform their search flights.


Longevity: In captivity, Monk vultures can reach a age of 40 years; though, in Germany there is a vulture living in a birds of prey station still being alive and well at the age of at least 75 years. Incredible, isn’t it?.


Mortality: ???.


Threats: As is the case with all vultures, the main threat is the lack of cadaver and carrion in the open countryside. Other threats are, especially in Europe, Monk vultures colliding with power lines or with the revolving wings of wind turbines. Also the loss of habitat is a real problem. Still, Monk Vultures are still being illegally be hunted, killed and poisoned. Unfortunately, the diclofenac problem has, by now, also arrived in Europa and we have seen the first victims of this painkiller under vultures..



monk vulture
Sleepy Monk Vulture




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 & Christie, David A., Raptors, 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 Monk Vulture source: by Didier Descouens - Eigenes Werk, CC BY-SA 4.0,