The Egyptian Vulture – A very selective food specialist

The Egyptian Vulture is, by appearance, a small, slender and scruffy Old World Vulture. This bird is monotypical to the Neophron genus. As a vulture it comes across as rather smallish, sized only between 57-65 cm in length and with a wingspan of only 133-155.

This vulture is more or less widely distributed across most of the Old World. That does not mean that it is endemic to Europe or Africa. In Europe it had mostly dissappeared – in other words, it had become distinct – by the 1960s. Only a massive conservation programme supporting four vultures: Bearded Vulture, Griffon Vulture, Monk Vulture and, last but not least, also the Egyptian Vulture, had been successful to help these species survive to see the advent of the 21st century.

egyptian vulture
Egyptian Vulture – Source: tariq_suleman/Agency iStock

Characteristics of the Egyptian Vulture


Order: Accipitriformes
Family: Accipitridae
Genus: Neophron
Species: Egyptian Vulture

Scientific Name: Neophron percnopterus

Names and Synonyms of the Egyptian Vulture

German: Schmutzgeier
Czech: Sup mrchožravý
Slovak: Zdochlinár biely
Hungarian: Dögkeselyű
Croat: Crkavica
Serbian: Bela kanja
French: Vautour percnoptère
Dutch: Aasgier
Spanish: Alimoche Común
Portuguese: Abutre do Egipto
Danish: Ådselgrib
Swedish: Smutsgam
Polish: Ścierwnik
Russian: Sterwjatnik
Greek: Ασπρόγυπας, Ασπροπάρης
Turkey: Küçük Akbaba, Mısır Akbabası
Arabic: الرخمة, الرخمة المصرية
Bengali: ধলা শকুন
Persian: کرکس مصری , کرکس مصری (کوچک)
Sotho: सेतो गिद्ध
Zulu: uPhalane

Distribution of the Egyptian Vulture

The Egyptian Vulture distributes across the Palearctic, Afrotropical and Indomalayan zones. Still rare in the Western Palearctic. Population is in decline in parts Africa, even extinct in some countries. Common on Atlantic Islands – Cape Verdes, Canaries; northwest Africa, southern Europe – Portugal/Spain, southern France, Pyrenees, southern Balkan; southern Ukraine, Crimea, Caucasus; Aral, Blakhas and Kazakhstan region; Asia minor – Middle East, Arabian peninsula, southwest and south Asia. Indian subcontinent: southeast Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, West Bengal, Himalayas. Africa – mainly Sahel band to north Tanzania, Angola, Namibia, Mozambique, South Africa.

Movements – Wintering – Habitat and Behaviour

Movements: Sedentary and nomadic on Atlantic Islands, Saharan mountains, sub-Saharan Africa, south Africa; mostly migratory in European Palearctic. Leaving Breeding area from mid August to mid September; returning to breeding area between February to April. Most birds use the Gibraltar and Bosporus/Levant routes to move around the Mediterranean.

Wintering For European birds the wintering quarters stretch from northern Africa southwards to the sub-Saharan Sahel band, also on the Arabian peninsula, partly in India.

Habitat: Lives and forages mainly in lowland, mountain open country, arid regions; also on beaches, river sand banks, wetland edges, also near human settlements, and urban areas; desert edges, high rocky plains, ravines, steppes, grassland, savannah, cultivations, rubbish dumps, harbours and villages.

Behaviour: Mostly solitary, rarely in small parties not exceeding 10-20 individuals.

Field Characteristics of the Egyptian Vulture

The adult Egyptian Vulture are mainly white, with black primaries and secondaries; wing lining and covets are also white. Face, chin and throat are unfeathered with an orange-yellowish colour. Juveniles and immature Egyptian Vultures show a more dark brown plumage, the naked parts of the head are rather dirty and flesh-coloured. The tail is shaped like a wedge. The flight silhouette resembles that of a Bearded Vulture. Changes into adult plumage in its sixth year.

Bill: dark-brown, black-tipped bill.
Cere and face: ad. = yellow to orange; juv. = grey

Feet: ad. = flesh-coloured or yellow; juv. = grey.

Iris: ad. = red-brown; juv. = brown.

Measurements and Voice

Size: 58-70 cm
Weight: 1600-2400 g, Ø: 2100 g
Wingspan: 155-180 cm
♂: 48,6-51,6 cm
♀: 48,0-51,4 cm

Voice: Mostly silent, if any then low whistles, groans, grunts and ruttling noises are uttered


Clutch: usually two eggs (rarely 3 eggs)

Eggs: borad-oval elliptical eggs, base coloure light brown with dark brown stains.

Egg Measurements and Weights:

Length: 58.2-76.4 mm
Width: 58.2-76.4 mm
Ø 66.2×50.0 mm
Shell weight: 6.7-12.2 g; Ø 8.9 g
Egg Weight: 81.5—97.0 g; Ø 94.0 g

Egg of the Egyptian Vulture – Source: by Klaus Rassinger and Gerhard Cammerer, Musum Wiesbaden

Laying Interval: 2-4 days.

Beginn of Incubation: After laying the first egg.

Incubation: 42 Tage pro Ei, both parents share the task of incubating

Hatching: no recorded data available

Fledging: both parents feed the chicken. Fledging after 70-90 days. In most cases only the oldest chicken survives to fledge.

Dependency: In Europe fledging is mostly between end of July to end of August. After that the family still keeps together for several weeks. The immature will be fed by ist parents for a period of 9-34 days.

egyptian vulture
Egyptian Vulture – Source: Artemy Voikhansky – own work, CC BY-SA 4.0


Food: All kind of rubbish, even feces; opportunist scavenger; unable to tear off pieces of meat off carcas. Wide variety of scraps of carrion, organic waste; only to a lesser extent insects, smaller young or injured vertrebrates of all classes. When attending to larger carcases, the Egyptian Vulture only sits on the periphery wating for the larger vulture to finish feeding and then taking the left-overs.

Forages by search flight, low gliding and also soaring high over smaller distances. The largest distance recorded were 30-70 km. When on search flight the Egyptian Vulture watches the activities of the larger vultures and mammal scavengers on the ground. Takes sick and dead nestlings at Pelican and Flamingo colonies.

Longevity: The oldest known ringed Egyptian Vulture reached an age of >37 years (Zoo Tel Aviv).

Mortality: Up to their 4th year, the survival rate of Egyptian Vultures is about 18.6%Die Überlebensrate von subadulten Schmutzgeiern, bis zum 4. Lebensjahr, liegt bei 18,6%.

Threats: Persecution by shooting or poisoning, collisions with power lines, losses during autumn and spring migration, also during wintering.


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 and Christie, David A., Raptors of the World, 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

Vultures Conservation Foundation – European Vulture Protection and Conservation


Egg of the Egyptian Vulture – source: Von Klaus Rassinger und Gerhard Cammerer, Museum Wiesbaden – Eigenes Werk, CC BY-SA 3.0,
Egyptian Vulture #1 – source: Zwilling330/agency iStock
Egpytian Vutlure (flying) #2 – source: Von Artemy Voikhansky – Eigenes Werk, CC BY-SA 4.0,
Featured Image – Hooded Vulture – source: Zwilling330/Agency iStock

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Published by Raymond Loyal Photography

Bird, Nature, Art and Architecture Photographer, Traveller, Blogger.

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