Cinereous Vulture (Aegypius monachus)

Cinereous Vulture

[order] ACCIPITRIFORMES | [family] Accipitridae | [latin] Aegypius monachus | [authority] Linnaeus, 1766 | [UK] Cinereous Vulture | [FR] Vautour moine | [DE] Monchsgeier | [ES] Buitre negro | [NL] Monniksgier


Monotypic species


This bird is an Old World vulture, and is only distantly related to the New World vultures, which are in a separate family, Cathartidae, of the order Ciconiiformes. It is therefore not directly related to the American Black Vulture despite the similar name and coloration. This large, black vulture is the only specie in its group of related species which eats carcasses. this species and the Lappet-faced Vulture are very closely related. Together with Gyps, Sarcogyps, and Trigonoceps the two species might be merged into a single genus, Aegypius.

Physical charateristics

Huge, One of largest Old World vultures. Broad winged vulture, wedge shaped tail, all dark sooty to black.
Bare skin of head and neck bluish grey, head covered with blackish down, neck ruff paler in older birds.
Immature somewhat blacker, and top of head covered with black down, juvenile has bare skin pink.

wingspan min.: 250 cm wingspan max.: 295 cm
size min.: 100 cm size max.: 110 cm
incubation min.: 50 days incubation max.: 55 days
fledging min.: 110 days fledging max.: 155 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 1  
      eggs max.: 0  


Eurasia : Southwest, Central


It inhabits forested areas in hills and mountains at 300-1400 m in Spain, but higher in Asia, where it also occupies scrub and arid and semi-arid alpine meadows and grasslands up to 4500m5. Also subalpine forests of Pinus spp., up to 2,000 m. Birds forage over forested areas, but also in many types of open terrain from steppe to upland grasslands. Nests are built in trees or on rocks (the latter extremely rarely in Europe but more frequently in parts of Asia), often aggregated in very loose colonies or nuclei. Its diet consists mainly of carrion from medium-sized or large mammal carcasses, although snakes and insects have been recorded as food items. Live prey is rarely taken.


The Cinereous Vulture breeds in loose colonies or solitarily. Age of first breeding is usually 5-6 years. It builds a huge nest on top of a tree where it lays one egg. Laying usually starts at the beginning of February and finishes at the end of April, with the maximum number of clutches between the last week of February and the beginning of March. Incubation is by both adults and lasts 50-54 days. The chick usually spends more than 100 days in the nest and remains with the adults 2-3 months after fledging before moving away. Breeding success is very high (up to 90%) in areas with low human disturbance. The chick is fed with meat regurgitated by the adults. The maximum daily energy requirements of a breeding pair, between the end of June and the beginning of July, are 2,200 g; the yearly needs of a successful pair would be approximately 600 kg.

Feeding habits

Birds feed on medium to large carcasses, only rarely taking live prey. They search at lower altitudes and often over more wooded country than do Griffon Vultures. In southern Spain the Cinereous Vulture feeds basically on mammals, specially rabbits and sheep (90%), but insects and lizards also appear in the diet; the remarkable increase of populations of wild ungulates such as deer and wild boar has changed its diet towards these. Individual pairs nesting no more than 3 km apart can show differences in diet, suggesting different foraging areas. Tortoises Testudo are also eaten, and in the Caucasus a significant part of the diet consists of dead sheep and other livestock which die in large numbers following overgrazing.

Video Cinereous Vulture


copyright: youtube


This species has a moderately small population which appears to be suffering an ongoing decline in its Asiatic strongholds, despite the fact that in parts of Europe numbers are now increasing. Consequently it qualifies as Near Threatened.
The Cinereous Vulture Aegypius monachus formerly known as the Black Vulture is classified as Near-threatened at world level and Vulnerable at European level. It has a discontinuous distribution in Europe, where it is present in the Caucasus mountains (190 pairs shared among Russia, Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan), Greece (20), Spain (1,000), Turkey (100-500) and Ukraine (6). Populations are considered to be increasing in Spain and Greece, stable in Turkey and declining in Ukraine and the Caucasus.

Because of the degradation and destruction of its breeding habitats, direct persecution and poisoning, abandoning of extensive livestock economy and rarefaction of wild ungulate populations, this species has considerably declined all over its breeding area. It may occasionally breed in Portugal, Former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia and Albania. It is now extinct in France. The global range extends from the Iberian peninsula across southern Europe and through the central Asian plateau to Mongolia and China. It has become very uncommon in Greece, but now increase locally as in Spain following conservation measures. In Spain it has definitely increased, however. Its global European population amounts to 900-1000 breeding pairs.
Cinereous Vulture status Near Threatened


In South Europe adults non-migratory, in Central Asia semi-resident, often following nomads and their domestic herds. Partly migratory in Asia: most birds leave Mongolia and other Northern breeding areas for winter; migrants winter from North east Africa and Middle East through Northern India to Korea; some birds reach Arabia and South of China.

Distribution map

Cinereous Vulture distribution range map


Title A Black Vulture Aegypius monachus from Roman Valkenburg The Netherlands
Author(s): Verhagen M.
Abstract: The former occurrence of Aegypius monachus in The ..[more]..
Source: ARDEA 79 (3): 439-442.

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