White-rumped Vulture (Gyps bengalensis)

White-rumped Vulture

[order] ACCIPITRIFORMES | [family] Accipitridae | [latin] Gyps bengalensis | [authority] Gmelin, 1788 | [UK] White-rumped Vulture | [FR] Vautour chaugoun | [DE] Bengalengeier | [ES] Buitre Dorsiblanco Bengali | [NL] Bengaalse Gier


Genus Species subspecies Region Range
Gyps bengalensis OR Iran 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

75-85 cm. Medium-sized, dark vulture. Adult has blackish plumage, white neck-ruff, rump and underwing-coverts, silvery panel on upper surface of secondaries, dark head and neck, and rather short, heavy, mostly silver bill. Juvenile dark brown with prominent white shaft-streaks, especially below. White down on head and neck and usually a brownish nape- patch. Subadult drabber brown

wingspan min.: 200 cm wingspan max.: 220 cm
size min.: 75 cm size max.: 85 cm
incubation min.: 45 days incubation max.: 52 days
fledging min.: 85 days fledging max.: 95 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 1  
      eggs max.: 1  


Oriental Region : Iran through Southeast Asia. It has been recorded from south-east Afghanistan and Iran where its status is currently unknown. Previously widespread and abundant across its range, it disappeared from most of South-East Asia in the early 20th century and now only occurs locally. Since 1996, it has suffered a catastrophic decline in its remaining strongholds in Pakistan and India, although flocks are still present locally. It is very rare in southern China. Gyps bengalensis occurs in Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and southern Vietnam, and may be extinct in southern China and Malaysia. It has been recorded from south-east Afghanistan and Iran where its status is currently unknown


It occurs mostly in plains and less frequently in hilly regions where it utilises light woodland, villages, cities, and open areas. It feeds on carrion?in India, largely on cattle carcasses and human remains. It is social and usually found in conspecific flocks. It breeds in small colonies in tall trees, often near human habitation.


Its nuptial display consists only of a bit of slow circling in pairs, with wingtips almost touching. It builds nests in trees, 40-60 feet (13 – 20m) up, from sticks and branches, often torn from the tree with the leaves still attached. One egg is laid, and incubated for between 45 and 52 days

Feeding habits

The diet of the Indian White-backed Vulture is carrion; either fresh or putrid. In its behaviour at a carcase it is on a par with the other large gragarious vultures, with much pulling, robbing and squabbling. It is dominated by the larger vultures.

Video White-rumped Vulture


copyright: J. del Hoyo


This species qualifies as Critically Endangered because it has suffered an extremely rapid population decline primarily as a result of feeding on carcasses of animals treated with the veterinary drug diclofenac.
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 veterinary 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 that 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, non-target poisoning, avian malaria 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 resulted from the collapse of large wild ungulate populations and improved management of deceased livestock. One study recorded that the sex of fledglings, the sex of dead adults and the sex of adults with visceral gout were all male-biased which may lead to problems in the future.
White-rumped Vulture status Critically Endangered


Sedentary throughout its range,. With some vagrancy to Borneo

Distribution map

White-rumped Vulture distribution range map

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