- Eurasian Black Vulture
:Aegypius "redirects here. For the hero, see
name = Eurasian Black Vulture
status = NT | status_system = IUCN3.1
trend = down
image_width = 250px
phylum = Chordata
classis = Aves
genus = "Aegypius"
genus_authority = Savigny, 1809
species = "A. monachus"
binomial = "Aegypius monachus"
binomial_authority = (Linnaeus, 1766)
*Green: Current resident breeding range.
*Green ?: May still breed.
*Green R: Re-introduction in progress.
*Blue: Winter range; rare where hatched blue.
*Dark grey: Former breeding range.
*Dark grey ?: Uncertain former breeding range.
The Eurasian Black Vulture ("Aegypius monachus") is also known as the Black Vulture, Monk Vulture, or the Cinereous Vulture. It is a member of the family
Accipitridae, which also includes many other diurnal raptors such as kites, buzzards and harriers.
This bird is an
Old World vulture, and is not related to the New World vultures, which are in a separate family, Cathartidae. It is therefore unrelated to the American Black Vulturedespite the similar name and coloration.
It breeds across southern
Europeand Asiafrom Spainto Korea, but is endangered throughout its European range. It is resident except in those parts of its range where hard winters cause limited movement.Snow, D. W. & Perrins, C. M. (1998). "The Birds of the Western Palearctic" Concise Edition. OUP ISBN 0-19-854099-X.] del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., & Sargatal, J., eds. (1994). "Handbook of the Birds of the World" Vol. 2. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona ISBN 84-87334-15-6.]
It is the largest
bird of prey( Falconiformes) in the world, though nearly equalled by the Lappet-faced Vultureand the Himalayan Griffon Vulture. The Andean Condor, slightly larger, was formerly thought to be the largest, but the Cathartidae are no longer considered true birds of prey. This huge bird is 98–110 cm (39-44 in) long with a 250–300 cm (99-119 in) wingspan and a weight of 7–14 kg (15.5-31 lbs), and is thus one of the world's heaviest flying birds. It breeds in high mountains and large forests, nesting in trees or occasionally on cliff ledges. It has all dark blackish-brown plumage, and even at a distance can be distinguished from Griffon Vultureby its evenly broad "barn door" wings. It has the typical vulture unfeathered bald head (actually covered in fine down), and dark markings around the eye give it a menacing skull-like appearance. The beak is brown, with a blue-grey cere, and the legs and feet are grey.
It is on average larger than mostly sympatric
Griffon Vulture. Among the vultures in its range, the Eurasian Black Vulture is best equipped to tear open tough carcass skins, using its powerful bill. It is dominant over other vultures at carcasses.
It can fly at a very high altitude. It has a specialised
haemoglobinalphaD subunit of high oxygen affinity which makes it possible to take up oxygen efficiently despite the low partial pressurein the upper troposphere. [cite journal |last= |first= |authorlink= |author=Weber R.E. |coauthors= Hiebl I., Braunitzer G. |quotes=no|year=1988 |month=April |title=High altitude and hemoglobin function in the vultures Gyps rueppellii and Aegypius monachus |journal=Biol Chem Hoppe Seyler |volume= 369|issue= 4|pages= 233–40|id= |url=http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/sites/entrez?cmd=Retrieve&db=PubMed&list_uids=3401328&dopt=Citation |accessdaymonth= 28 August |accessyear = 2007 |accessdate= |quote= ]
tatus and conservation
The Black Vulture has declined over most of its range in the last 200 years due to poisoning by eating poisoned bait put out to kill wolves and other predators, and to higher hygiene standards reducing the amount of available carrion; it is currently listed as near threatened. The decline has been the greatest in the western half of the range, with extinction in many European countries (Portugal, France, Italy, Austria, Poland, Slovakia, Romania) and northwest Africa (Morocco, Algeria). More recently, protection and deliberate feeding schemes have allowed some local recoveries in numbers, particularly in Spain, where numbers increased to about 1,000 pairs by 1992 after an earlier decline to 200 pairs in 1970. Elsewhere in Europe, very small, but now increasing numbers breed in Bulgaria and Greece, and a re-introduction scheme is under way in France. Trends in the small populations in Ukraine (Crimea) and European Russia, and in Asian populations, are not well recorded. In the former USSR, it is still threatened by illegal capture for zoos, and in Tibet by rodenticides.
The genus name "Aegypius" is a Greek word (αιγυπιος) for 'vulture', or a bird not unlike one;
Aeliandescribes the "aegypius" as "halfway between a vulture ("gyps") and an eagle". Some authorities think this a good description of a lammergeier; others do not. Aegypius is the eponymof the species, whatever it was. [Francis Celoria, ed. and trans. "The Metamorphoses" of Antonius Liberalis. Routledge, London and New York (1992); ISBN 0415068967. Note 60, on p. 116] The English name 'Black Vulture' refers to the plumage colour, while 'Monk Vulture', a direct translation of its German name Mönchsgeier, refers to the bald head and ruff of neck feathers like a monk's cowl. 'Cinereous Vulture' (Latin "cineraceus", ash-coloured; pale, whitish grey), was a deliberate (though very inappropriate) attempt to rename it with a new name distinct from the American Black Vulture. [Sibley, C. G., & Monroe, B. L. (1991). "Distribution and Taxonomy of Birds of the World". Yale University Press.]
* Database entry includes justification for why this species is near threatened.
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