The Cinereous Vulture (Aegypius monachus) is a huge bird, with dark plumage, but for the pale head. This species is also called Monk Vulture. It comes across at a size of 100-110 cm and a wingspan measuring between 250-295 cm, making it one of the larges vultures in Europa, Africa and Asia. This bird is an Old World Vulture.
There are several names attached to this vulture which are Black Vulture, Cinereous Vulture, European or Eurasian Black Vulture. As usual it depends on the author und which name this vulture is addressed. The Vulture Conservation Foundation addresses the bird as “Cinereous Vulture”.
Names apart, the Cinereous Vulture lives solitary or in pairs but is also known to be quite sociable when gathering in groups.
Characteristics of the Cinereous Vulture
Genus: Monk Vultures (Aegypius)
Species: Cinereous Vulture
Scientific Name: Aegypius monachus
Names and Synonyms of the Cinereous Vulture
French: Vautour moine
Spanish: Buitre Negro
Italian: Avvoltoio monaco
Czech: Sup hnědý
Slovak: Sup tmavohnedý
Polish: Sęp kasztanowaty
Russian: Tschorny Grif
Mongol: Нөмрөг тас, Нохой тас, Тас, Хар тас, Хүсэн ? тас
Chinese (traditional): 禿鷲
Bengali: কালা শকুন
Hebrew: עוזניה שחורה, עוזנייה שחורה, עזניה שחורה, עזנייה שחורה
Arabic: النسر الأسود, النسر الأسود النسر, النسر الاسود
Thai: แร้งดำ, อีแร้งดำหิมาลัย
Turkey: Esmer Akbaba, Kara akbaba, Rahip Akbaba, Тазқара
Distribution of the Cinerous Vulture / Monk Vulture
The Cinereous Vulture is a bird of the Palearctic and marginally also of the Indomalayam region. It mostly distributes across the mountainous regions of Southwest, South and Southwest Europa, as well as in central and south Asia. European breeding areas are Spain, Balearic Islands, southern France (re-introduced in the Cevennes from late 1970s), Pyrenees, eastern Greece, south Bulgaria, Crimea, Caucasus, Turkey, Iran, south Turkmenia, east Uzbekistan, southeast Kazakhstan, from Afghanistan to Baluchistan, northwest Pakistan, north and northeast India (Himachal Pradesh and Assam), Mongolia, north China and Tibet. In Africa the Cinereous Vulture is breeding in the north African Atlas mountain range (Morocco and Algeria).
Size: 100-110 cm
Tail: 32-37 cm
Weight: 7000-12500 g
♂ 7,0-11,5 kg g
♀ 7,5-12,5 kg Ø
Wingspan: 250-295 cm
♂: 73,5-82,0 cm
♀: 75,0-84,5 cm
In general, the Cinereous Vulture is a silent bird that becomes more vocal when arguing with other vultures and when assembling at cadavers and carrion. Though, the sounds are no more than croaks, grunts and hisses. These sounds are also uttered in the presence of human and must not always be understood as aggressive sounds.
Maturity and Mating
Sexually Mature: Cinereous Vultures become sexually mature after the 5-6 year of age.
Mating: Monogamous breeding pairs; pairing can start in the second year already; if so mating starts in February.
Clutches per breading season: 1 clutch
Breeding: Across the entire distribution breeding begins earliest in February and can last up to August/September. In Europa, breeding begins from end of February and usually last up to March / early April.
Nest: The nest of the Cinereous Vulture is a massive structure of sticks, usually measuring 1.5-2 m across and up to 1-3 m deep, decorated with dung and animal skin, which is gatherd by the vultures in the breeding area. The nest sits in trees such as oak, juniper, pine or conifer at levels 1.5 to 12 m. Trees grow on the ground, on rocks or cliffs, though, rarely in Europe.
In Europe nest structures are usually a bit smaller than in Asia, also measuring 140-200 cm across but only 70-100 cm deep.
Clutch: 1 Egg
Eggs: Eggs are rump to round oval or even elliptical, white shell with rusty brown stains.
Egg – Measures and Weights:
Length: 81.5-101.0 mm
Width: 64.5-75.0 mm
Ø: 92.0×70.1 mm
Weight of an freshly laid egg: 252 g
Eggshell: 21.0-30.0 g; Ø 24.3 g (n=100)
Recurrent Clutch: no recorded data available.
Incubation: 54-56 days, both parents share the task of incubating.
Fledging: Some of the jung Cinereous Vultures leave the nest already after 80-90 days, though, mostly they fledge after 110-120 days. The chicken is fed by both parents.
Food – Longevity – Mortality – Threats
Food: The Cinereous Vulture almost entirely depends on a sufficient supply of cadavers and carrion. Upon rare occasions when living animals are cut down by the vultures we are talking weak and ill animals. The Cinereous Vulture lacks the ability to prey on healthy animals simply because of its sheer weight and the huge wingspan, the latter especially preventing it from fast flights, and also from abruptly switching from gliding into dive. Cinereous Vultures don’t do fast at all, if any they glide down to the prey out of the incredible heights at which they perform their search flights.
Longevity: In captivity, Cinereous vultures can reach a age of 40 years; though, in Germany there is a vulture living in a birds of prey station still being alive and well at the age of at least 75 years. Incredible, isn’t it?.
Mortality: no recorded data available.
Threats: As is the case with all vultures, the main threat is the lack of cadaver and carrion in the open countryside. Other threats are, especially in Europe, Cinereous vultures colliding with power lines or with the revolving wings of wind turbines. Also the loss of habitat is a real problem. Still, Cinereous Vultures are still being illegally be hunted, killed and poisoned. Unfortunately, the diclofenac problem has, by now, also arrived in Europa and we have seen the first victims of this painkiller under vultures.
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 & Christie, David A., Raptors, 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 Monk Vulture source: by Didier Descouens – Eigenes Werk, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17083739
Featured Image and all other images of the Cinereous Vulture: by ©Raymond Loyal
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