Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus)

Egyptian Vulture

[order] ACCIPITRIFORMES | [family] Accipitridae | [latin] Neophron percnopterus | [authority] Linnaeus, 1758 | [UK] Egyptian Vulture | [FR] Vautour percnoptere | [DE] Schmutzgeier | [ES] Alimoche Comun | [NL] Aasgier


Monotypic species


Members of the Neoprhon genus belong to a group commonly called Old World vultures. The members are small vultures who, unlike the larger vultures have diamond shaped tails, a much shorter neck and a more elongated bill. They are known to use tools to break eggs.

Physical charateristics

The head is creamy-yellow with black eye patches that extend below the short, narrow bill in the form of tufted whiskers, that is why an other commonly used name is the bearded vulture. The neck and the underparts are a rusty-orange colour, while the back, wings and tail are dark grey-blue to black. The juveniles are much less distinctive than the adults, having a variably brown, patchy plumage. Up to 13 subspecies have been described, differing to varying degrees in size and appearance, but only two are commonly recognised, Gypaetus barbatus barbatus and G. b. meridional. In fight the tail is diamond-shaped.

Listen to the sound of Egyptian Vulture

[audio: Vulture.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

wingspan min.: 155 cm wingspan max.: 179 cm
size min.: 55 cm size max.: 65 cm
incubation min.: 40 days incubation max.: 43 days
fledging min.: 90 days fledging max.: 43 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 3  
      eggs max.:  


Africa, Eurasia, Oriental Region : West Africa to India, South Spain to Central Asia


This species of vulture is a very adaptable, inhabiting various habitat types, and slowly estblishing territories closer and closer to humans. These birds can often be seen feeding around garbage dumps. Among the natural habitats favored by the Egyptian vulture are plains, wetlands, uplands, and mountains. They are found ranging through southern Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and India.


The Egyptian vulture is largely a monogamous bird, and undertakes a courtship which includes undulating flights and mutual preening. They fly high into the air and dive back down, grasping claws on the way. The pair will construct a nest on a cliff, either in a cave or on a ledge protected by an overhang, or very occasionally in a tree. The nest is built of sticks and lined with masses of wool, hair, rags or the remains of food, and measures an impressive 1.5 metres across. Normally two eggs are laid, which are incubated for 42 days. Both parents incubate the eggs and feed the chicks until they fledge at the age of 70 to 85 days. uvenile plumage is brown, strikingly different from the pure white adults. Egyptian vultures become sexually mature at four to five years of age and are known to live for up to 37 years in captivity.

Feeding habits

Most well known for its evolved abiltity to eat eggs, the Egyptian vulture’s diet also includes both carrion and overripe vegetable matter. When feeding with crows and small raptors, this vulture is dominant. They must wait, however, for other larger vultures to finish their meal at a carcass, before entering the scene. Once the carcass is abandined, the birds fly in and pick the small bits of remaining meat from the bones with their delicate beaks.
Among other favored foods are decaying fruits and vegetables, often salvaged from human garbage dumps, and small insects, which the bird can catch alive. Without a sense of smell, the Egyptian vultures rely on their keen eyesight to find all food. Their vision is twice as refined as that of a human, allowing them to see an object 4 to 8 centimeters in diameter from as high as 1000 meters.

Video Egyptian Vulture


copyright: youtube


This long-lived species qualifies as Endangered owing to a recent and extremely rapid population decline in India (presumably resulting from poisoning by the veterinary drug Diclofenac) combined with severe long-term declines in Europe (>50% over the last three generations [42 years]) and West Africa, plus ongoing declines through much of the rest of its African range.
Neophron percnopterus is a widespread but patchily distributed breeder in southern Europe, which accounts for less than half of its global breeding range. Its European breeding population is small (as few as 3,500 pairs), and declined substantially between 1970-1990. The species continued to decline in most countries-including its key populations in Spain and Turkey-during 1990-2000, and underwent a large decline overall. On top of earlier declines, this equates to a very large decline (>50%) over three generations. This species is endangered.
This vulture is widely distributed in southern Europe, from south-western Asia to India and Mongolia, and in the northern half of Africa. The birds of Spain, the Balearic islands and the Canary islands are partly sedentary, but all other populations winter in Africa, mainly in the Sahel region. About 1600-1770 breeding pairs inhabit the European Union. This population is declining since the beginning of the century, and is still declining in many regions. Direct persecution and poisoning are the most important threats to this species
Egyptian Vulture status Endangered


Migratory in N of range; sedentary in Arabia, sub-Saharan Africa, Balearic Is and Canary Is; mainly sedentary in Indian Subcontinent, but locally migratory in some regions. Present in N breeding areas mainly Mar-Sept; winter sightings very rare, although species winters in small numbers in Coto Donana (SW Spain). Most migrants cross to Africa at Gibraltar, Suez and Bab al Mandab also important; nowadays, species winters only N equator; some juveniles remain in Africa throughout second year.

Distribution map

Egyptian Vulture distribution range map


Title Use of alternative nests for clutch replacement In the Egyptian Vulture Neophron Percnopterus
Author(s): Martnez, F. & Blanco, G.
Abstract: Many single-brooded bird species may raise young f..[more]..
Source: Ardeola 49(2), 2002, 297-299

download full text (pdf)

Title Sex identification in the Egyptian Vulture by plow cytometry and cytogenetics
Author(s): DELIA CAVALLA et al
Abstract: The genome size and sex of the Egyptian Vulture (N..[more]..
Source: The Condor 99:829-832

download full text (pdf)

Title Migrations and sojourn in Africa of Egyptian vultures ( Neophron percnopterus) tracked by satellite
Author(s): Bernd-U. Meyburg, Max Gallardo, Christiane Meyburg, Elena Dimitrova
Abstract: By means of satellite telemetry, the migrations of..[more]..
Source: J Ornithol (2004) 145: 273-280

download full text (pdf)

Title Food of the Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus)
in Biscay
Author(s): HIDALGO S et al
Abstract: We studied the diet of the Egyptian Vulture in Bis..[more]..
Source: BUTEO 14 (2005): 23-29

download full text (pdf)

Title Growth rates of nestling Egyptian Vultures Neophron percnopterus in relation to brood size hatching order and environmental factors.
Author(s): Donazar J.A. & Ceballos O
Abstract: Patterns of growth in weight, tarsus and feather (..[more]..
Source: ARDEA 77 (2): 217-226

download full text (pdf)

Title Post-fledging dependence period and development of flight and foraging behavior in the Egyptian Vulture Neophron percnopterus.
Author(s): Ferrer M., Garcia L. & Cadenas R.
Abstract: In northern Spain the first flights of fledgling E..[more]..
Source: ARDEA 78 (3): 387-394.

download full text (pdf)

Title Organization and Variation of the Mitochondrial Control Region in Two Vulture Species, Gypaetus barbatus and Neophron percnopterus
Abstract: We report the first entire mitochondrial DNA (mtDN..[more]..
Source: Journal of Heredity 2004:95(4):332-337

download full text (pdf)

Title Factors influencing the distribution, abundance and nest-site selection of an endangered Egyptian vulture (Neophron percnopterus) population in Sicily
Author(s): Maurizio Sara and Massimiliano Di Vittorio
Abstract: The Egyptian vulture (Neophron percnopterus) breed..[more]..
Source: Animal Conservation (2003) 6, 0-000

download full text (pdf)

Title Levels of polychlorinated biphenyls and
organochlorine pesticides in serum samples of
Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus) from Spain
Author(s): B. Gomara and L. Ramos
Abstract: Concentrations of 23 polychlorinated biphenyls (PC..[more]..
Source: Chemosphere 55 (2004) 577-583

download full text (pdf)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *