Slender-billed Vulture (Gyps tenuirostris)

Slender-billed Vulture

[order] ACCIPITRIFORMES | [family] Accipitridae | [latin] Gyps tenuirostris | [authority] Gray, 1844 | [UK] Slender-billed Vulture | [FR] Vautour a long bec | [DE] Schmalschnabelgeier | [ES] Buitre Picofino | [NL] Dunbekgier


Genus Species subspecies Region Range
Gyps tenuirostris OR Himalayas through Southeast Asia


Members of the genus Gyps are vultures varying in size from medium to large. They have an elongated head with a long and heavy beak. The head and neck are bare, but for a covering of woolly down. At the base of the neck is a ruff of long, narrow, pointed feathers. This is a social genus, usually nesting in colonies in trees or on rocky crags. There are seven species, covering much of Africa, southern Europe and into Asia. Of there, two (the African White-backed Vulture Gyps africanus and the Indian White-backed Vulture Gyps bengalensis ) are arguably more logically places in a genus of their own. They differ in that they have 12 tail feathers (not the 14 that all other Gyps have), their nesting habits differ, and they have a distinctive coloration that differs significantly from the rest of the genus.

Physical charateristics

Thin, rather attenuated vulture. Perched adults have dark bill with pale culmen; black cere; a near-total lack of feathering on the black head and neck. Cold brown overall colouration and scruffy, ill-kempt appearance. Juveniles are very similar but have black head and necks with a hint of white down on the nape and upper neck. Underparts are pale streaked. In flight the white downy thigh patches are distinctive. Jizz is remarkably different from other Gyps vultures due to slender snake-like neck, thin elongated bill, angular crown and scruffy appearance. Eye ring is dark and does not contrast with facial skin. Head and neck skin is bare and thickly creased and wrinkled

wingspan min.: 220 cm wingspan max.: 240 cm
size min.: 80 cm size max.: 95 cm
incubation min.: 55 days incubation max.: 58 days
fledging min.: 100 days fledging max.: 110 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 1  
      eggs max.: 1  


Oriental Region : Himalayas through Southeast Asia. Gyps tenuirostris is found in India north of, and including, the Gangetic plain, west to at least Himachal Pradesh and Haryana, south to southern West Bengal (and possibly northern Orissa), east through the plains of Assam, and through southern Nepal, and north and central Bangladesh. It formerly occurred more widely in South-East Asia, but it is now thought to be extinct in Thailand and Malaysia, and the only recent records are from Cambodia, southern Laos and Myanmar.


It inhabits dry open country in the vicinity of human habitation, but also breeds in open country far from villages. In South-East Asia it was found in open and partly wooded country, generally in the lowlands. This species feeds almost entirely on carrion, scavenging at rubbish dumps and slaughterhouses. It has only been recorded nesting in trees, usually large ones, usually at a height of 7-14 m, often near villages. While feeding considerable aggregations can form, and regular communal roost sites are used. It is social and usually found in conspecific flocks, interacting with other vultures at carcasses. Movements are poorly known, and the degree of connectivity of apparently separate populations is not known. Vultures also play a key role in the wider landscape as providers of ecosystem services. They were previously heavily relied upon to help dispose of animal and human remains in India


It builds compact nests in loose colonies of fewer than ten individuals at heights of seven to fifteen metres in large and leafy trees. The breeding season is between October and April, when pairs of vultures produce a single egg. Incubation duty is shared between both parents

Feeding habits

Feeding solely on carrion, the slender-billed vulture prefers the remains of cattle, but will also consume the carcases of wild deer and pigs killed by tigers, as well as meat discarded by humans. The slender-billed vulture tolerates the presence of other vulture and scavenger species while it eats, gorging itself, and then resting to digest the food.

Video Slender-billed Vulture


copyright: Allen Michaux


This species is classified as Critically Endangered because it has suffered an extremely rapid population decline, particularly across the Indian subcontinent, largely as a result of feeding on carcasses of animals treated with the veterinary drug diclofenac, perhaps in combination with other causes.
By mid-2000, Gyps vultures were being found dead and dying in Nepal, Pakistan, and throughout India, and major declines and local extirpations were being reported. The anti-inflammatory drug diclofenac, used to treat domestic livestock, has been identified as the cause of mortality, with renal failure resulting in visceral gout in the vast majority of examined vultures. Modelling has shown that to cause the observed rate of decline in Gyps vultures, just one in 760 livestock carcasses need contain diclofenac residues. Despite awareness programmes to educate locals about the association between diclofenac and vulture mortality, a survey in Nepal indicated that the vast majority of people still do not link diclofenac use to a decline in vulture populations, potentially leading to a slower uptake of meloxicam. A second veterinary drug in use in India, ketoprofen, has also recently been identified to be lethal to the species, and population modelling indicates it may be present in sufficient concentrations to also cause population declines. Other likely contributory factors are changes in human consumption and processing of dead livestock, avian malaria, and poison and pesticide use, but these are probably of minor significance. In South-East Asia, the near-total disappearance of the species pre-dated the present crisis, and probably results from the collapse of large wild mammal populations and improved management of deceased livestock, but persecution is also thought to be a problem.
Slender-billed Vulture status Critically Endangered


The slender-billed vulture does not migrate, but when young or unpaired, can cover huge areas in flight

Distribution map

Slender-billed Vulture distribution range map

Leave a Reply

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