Vulture Conservation

[Vulture Conservation] We all know living organisms are divided into vertebrates and invertebrates. Different classes of vertebrates are Agnatha, Condrichthyes, Osteichthyes, Amphibia, Reptilia, Aves and Mammalia. They all are responsible for keeping the ecosystem in an organized manner. They are bonded like a chain, and if one chain is broken it is difficult to retain the balanced ecosystem. Vulture are coming under the class Aves and we know they are carnivorous in nature.[Vulture Conservation]

They are doing a service for the Earth as well as for us to maintain ecological balance and food chain preservation. Vultures play a vital role in decomposing carcasses and prevent diseases spreading from bacteria and viruses. Vultures play an important role in keeping the World clean and clear while humans are destroying it.  

Classification of Vultures:

Generally Vultures have weak feet and legs so that they can’t carry their prey hooked. They will pee on their own toes to cool their legs from the heat. Usually vultures are separated into two major categories named, 

  1. New World Vulture
  2. Old World Vulture
  • New World Vulture: 

These Vultures are found only in the New World like Canada to Argentina, North and South America and also in the Caribbean regions. New World Vultures have a high sense of smell which helps to reach their prey easily. These vultures come under the scientific family, named ‘Cathartidae’.

  • Old World Vulture:

They are found in regions like Asia, Europe and Africa. These Vultures come under the scientific family, named ‘Accipitridae’. These Vultures have good vision to sight their prey easily and are related to Eagle, Kites, etc. 

Types of Vulture Species:

Vultures have a heavy body with shaggy and loose plumes compared to other birds. They are usually brown in colour and sometimes in black. Some species head, neck or throat are slightly pale in nature and sometimes in red or blue in colour. There are about 23 different types of living species of vultures around the World. 

Andean Condor:

  1. Class: New World Classification.
  2. Region: North American region.
  3. Weight: 10-15kgs.
  4. Wingspan: 10feet.
  5. Lifespan: Around 70years.
Andean condor soaring in the Air. Vulture Conservation
Searching for food on duty.

It is easy to find the male and female, as the male has white collar in the neck region. They lay upto one or two eggs in the highest peak range of about 5000m between the rock. The life span of this bird of prey is around 70 years and has the largest life span among birds. Researchers found that, it is committing suicide because when it feels useless and energyless in its life. It becomes old and when they feel energyless within themselves they climb up over the highest peak and jump to the lower end to end its life.

These species are considered as critically endangered in their numbers and should take serious actions to prevent them.

Black Vulture:

  • Class: New World Classification.
  • Region: American region.
  • Weight: 2-3kgs.
  • Wingspan: 2.5feet
  • Lifespan: Around 25years.
Black Vulture busy with tearing the flesh. Vulture Conservation
Vultures bill drilling into the deceased cattle flesh.

They are considered as the smallest bird of the vulture species. It has a lower sense of smell and for food it would follow the turkey vulture which is good in smelling sense. Mainly they eat roadside accidents, dead rabbits, rats, etc. These vultures are dark in nature and look bald in the head. The black vulture families are around 34 million years old, and their fossils are under research. Researchers said that these family group fossils are found in Europe. These vultures only eat fresh flesh of dead ones of around 12-24 hours old.

The black vultures will not build nests to protect the eggs. They lay their eggs in trees, dark cavities, cliffs, etc. 

California Condor:

  • Class: New World Classification.
  • Region: North American region.
  • Weight: 10-15kgs.
  • Wingspan: 10 feet
  • Lifespan: Around 60years.
Found a place for landing. Vulture Conservation
California condor going to rest and found food to taste.

It is one of the biggest birds in the World. It can rotate in the air of around 15k feet high. Americans consider these birds as their sacred bird. The female bird will lay only one egg in the duration of two years.

Their reproduction rate is very slow in nature and in 1967 they were in critically endangered condition. Only 23 numbers (According to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service) of these condors were present in 1982 and scientists were taken seriously on this issue to produce them and increase their population through captive reproduction method. One interesting fact researchers found is that condors can reproduce asexually without mating. Scientists found 2 times the california condors hatched chicks from unfertilized eggs.

Parthenogenesis is uncommon in the birds and it is found in california condors. These vultures are positioned as critically endangered and need conservation.

Cape Vulture:

  • Class: Old World Classification.
  • Region: South African region.
  • Weight: 7-11kgs.
  • Wingspan: 7-9 feet
  • Lifespan: Around 15-25years.
Cape vulture is ready to take the Food.
Giant Sea turtle died and become a prey for vulture.

These species live like a joint family. They live in colonies of more than 1000 breeding partners and most importantly they are very loyal to their mate. High range electric collisions are the major threat for these species and it should be reduced in future. Conservation of these species is also important as they will  

feed large dead animals like livestock and antelope. Population of this species is 9400 in numbers and its population is decreasing in condition. Should be considered as endangered and conservation efforts should be taken. 

Cinereous Vulture:

  • Class: Old World Classification.
  • Region: Eurasia region.
  • Weight: 14kgs.
  • Wingspan: 10 feet
  • Lifespan: Around 35years.
Majestic Cinereous Vulture in the lighting.
Eye of the vulture denotes the power.

This vulture is also called Monk vulture. They are also monogamous in nature and are loyal to their partner. These vultures sometimes appear in the venue. Around 20 vultures are present in the venue. These vulture pairs built their nest powerfully so that they can use it for next year’s reproduction also. These vultures have a special type of hemoglobin which is in the blood, to absorb more oxygen at higher ranges of peaks. They are not critically endangered but should conserve and take care of them which is our foremost duty.

Egyptian Vulture:

  • Class: Old World Classification.
  • Region: North Africa and Indian region.
  • Weight: 1.9-2.5 kgs.
  • Wingspan: 6 feet
  • Lifespan: Around 37years.
White coloured Egyptian vulture.
Casual look becomes terrific for this vulture.

It is one of the small birds in the Old World vulture class. Egyptian vultures look like domestic chickens. In order to mate male vultures will perform swooping in the air to attract its pair. They build their nest usually in the rock. It takes 39 to 49 days to hatch the laid eggs. Like humans, they teach their child birds to fly over and be left alone to learn themselves.

According to VCF(Vulture Conservation Foundation), a 30km longline between port Sudan and the red sea coast may have killed thousands of egyptian vultures through the electric current passing. It is also called the ‘Killer power line’. This species is also in critically endangered condition. Conservation of these vultures are essential to keep the environment clean and balance the ecosystem.

Greater yellow-headed Vulture:

  • Class: New World Classification.
  • Region: South American region.
  • Weight: 1.6-2.0 kgs.
  • Wingspan: 5 feet
  • Lifespan: Around 10-30years.

These aves are found in tropical forests of South America and Amazon forests. To eat a larger carcass it should depend on other big vultures as its beak is not strong enough to open larger animal carcasses. As the name denotes the head of the vulture is yellow in colour. They reside in the height of around 1000 mts. These vultures are also a monogamy in nature throughout their lifetime. They lay their eggs in the crevice and caves of the rock near them. Here the eggs are incubated with the partners to hatch after 40 days.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) announced these birds as a least concern, but the threat is also increasing with global warming and environmental conditions. 

Griffon Vulture:

  • Class: Old World Classification.
  • Region: Eurasia region.
  • Weight: 4.5-15 kgs.
  • Wingspan: 7.5-9.2 feet
  • Lifespan: Around 40-50years.
Solo Griffon looking for food from the top of the tree.
Illumination on the bill makes the vulture stronger.

Breeding pairs of these vultures is about 34000 pairs in Europe at present. It is also Monogamy in nature. It has a long slender neck which helps in feeding the deceased animals muscles, tissues and viscera. These vultures are more social in nature. They form colonies and breed in the season to enhance their generations. They are the least considered species at present and serious threats are diclofenac which is a pain killer given to cattles. That can be reduced considering the Vulture population.

Himalayan Vulture:

  • Class: Old World Classification.
  • Region: Himalayan and Tibetian plateau region.
  • Weight: 8-12 kgs.
  • Wingspan: 8.4-10.2 feet
  • Lifespan: Average 20-35years.
Calm sitting image of Himalayan Vulture.
It is starring in the highest peak of Himalayas.

It is also called as Himalayan Griffon vultures. They are majestic in look and the second largest vultures in the Old World class. The breeding of these vultures can be seen in the elevations of highest peaks of about 600m to 4500m. The incubation period of himalayan vultures is about 50 days. These Vultures eat deceased animals and also human corpses in the highest peaks which are left for sky burial. It is there in Tibetan culture that the dead bodies will be left in the highest peaks for sky burial.

These species are considered as nearly threatened as they were found dead in the mass population in recent days. It happened due to the poisoning of the deceased animals. Major threat is the drug diclofenac and should be controlled with serious actions. 

Hooded Vulture:

  • Class: Old World Classification.
  • Region: African region.
  • Weight: 1.5-2.5 kgs.[Vulture Conservation]
  • Wingspan: 3-5 feet
  • Lifespan: Average 20-25years.
Hooded vulture keen in looking for prey.
Brown vulture on the rock.

These vultures are found in sub-saharan Africa. Apart from the carcass they also eat grubs, grasshoppers and locusts. They also feed spiny lobsters in the seashore areas. They built their nest in the trees and the incubation period is around 46days. They are small size vultures and wait for the bigger vultures to leave the carcass to feed their food. Hooded vultures are critically endangered in condition according to IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) statistics

Indian Vulture:

  • Class: Old World Classification.
  • Region: Indian region.
  • Weight: 5-6 kgs.
  • Wingspan: 5.5-6.5 feet
  • Lifespan: Average 40-45 years.

These species are found in the Indian regions and are also called as Jatayu in India. They are considered as sacred birds named Jatayu, the character which is portrayed in Epic Ramayana. Indian Vultures are critically endangered in condition and need to take special care for them to preserve it. In the 1980s up to 80 million species were present but today they were only about thousands in range.

‘Jatayu Conservation Breeding Centre’ is already taking this as a serious issue and started in 2001 to preserve the Indian vultures in various methods. After researching, the Government of India banned the veterinary use of the pain killer drug in 2007-2008. 

King Vulture:

  • Class: Old World Classification.
  • Region: Central and South American region.
  • Weight: 3-4.5 kgs.
  • Wingspan: 4-5.5 feet.
  • Lifespan: Around 30 years.
The terrific face of King Vulture.
Clear image shows the fighting vulture.

The name King vulture arrived from the classic empire, when old legend Mayan lived these Vultures are named as King and they act as communicators between humans and God. King Vultures ranged from southern Mexico to southern Argentina.[Vulture Conservation] As the name given they are colourful in nature. When they see the prey first, they will eat the eyes of the dead ones. They are also monogamy in nature and they keep their nest as a dirty and unpleasant smell in order to prevent it from other predators.

The population of king vultures is decreasing in condition and they are in least concern category according to IUCN. 

Lammergeier Vulture:

  • Class: Old World Classification.
  • Region: Central Asia and Eastern Africa to Spain region.
  • Weight: 4.5-7.8 kgs.
  • Wingspan: 10 feet.
  • Lifespan: Around 40 years.

This vulture is also called the Bearded Vulture. These vultures like to take bones of the deceased animals. Specially they eat bones and bone marrow about 80 to 90 percent. They have the capacity of consuming and digesting bones the size of sheep’s vertebrae. They will break the bone by dropping it to the rock from greater heights and taste it. The reproduction process of this vulture is a challenging and slow process.

Bearded vulture has become the rarest bird in Europe regions and the total number of pairs are around 600 to 1000 pairs. Now, the estimated global population is about 2000-10000 in numbers and is least concerned about the condition. It can be known as marrow-minded vulture.[Vulture Conservation] 

Lappet-faced Vulture:

  • Class: Old World Classification.
  • Region: African region.
  • Weight: 4.5-9.5 kgs.
  • Wingspan: 9.0 feet.
  • Lifespan: Around 30-50 years.

These vultures live in less rainfall regions. It has many skin folds in its neck which are also called lappets. It is the largest vulture in the African region which is enough to dominate other raptors while eating the prey. They are also monogamous in nature, having one pair for life long.[Vulture Conservation]

The nest is built up with pairs and only one egg is laid and incubated by the pair for 35-45 days. According to the IUCN red list record population of this vulture is around 8,500 individuals and should be considered as endangered and conservation is needed.[Vulture Conservation] 

Lesser yellow-headed Vulture:

  • Class: New World Classification.
  • Region: Central and South American region.
  • Weight: 0.95 – 1.55 kgs.
  • Wingspan: 5.4 feet.
  • Lifespan: Around 25 years.

These species are separated as different types from Greater yellow-headed vulture in the year 1964, as we split the countries. They live in lowland and marshy areas.[Vulture Conservation] They are singles and pair up during the breeding season. The new chick born are blind, without feathers and immobile in nature. It is difficult for the vulture to carry food for the chick from lowland. They will vomit the pre-digested food in front of the chick and smaller ones survive with this prey only.

There are around 47000 species observed and according to IUCN it is the least concerned condition. 

Palm-nut Vulture:

  • Class: Old World Classification.
  • Region: African region.
  • Weight: 1.3 – 1.7 kgs.
  • Wingspan: 4.9 feet.
  • Lifespan: Around 25 years.

These vultures are found in the coastal regions of Africa. Apart from other vultures they eat palm nuts, some plants, oil and raphia fruits of palm. It may be called omnivorous due to its eating habitat.[Vulture Conservation] It also feeds on fish, small amphibians, medium-sized birds or mammals, etc as other raptors. The female bird is slightly larger than male one. During the breeding season it shows a flight performance in a beautiful manner. Another fact is that they don’t like hot climates and so they are active in the early morning.

They built up the nest with the leaves and palm fronds in the large platform-like area. The incubation period is around 40-50 days and the chick is brought up by both the parents.[Vulture Conservation] These vultures are highly-populated and have no need for consideration.

Red-Headed Vulture:

  • Class: Old World Classification.
  • Region: Indian and Southeast Asia region.
  • Weight: 3.5-6.3 kgs.
  • Wingspan: 6.5-8.5 feet.
  • Lifespan: Around 20 years.(May be above or below)

These vultures are the only species who come under the genome Sarcogyps, which is an ancient gene present before 10-11 million years ago in  the World. But unfortunately, they are also in a critical stage according to IUCN and need conservation. The main threat for this vulture is the usage of the painkiller (anti-inflammatory), diclofenac drug in the livestock. It is also called as Asian king vulture, but the population has been decreasing rapidly in India for the past 15 years.

The population of red-headed vultures is unhappy and decreased to 2 digits. Recently from Tamilnadu, Nilgiris red-headed vulture is spotted by Santhanaraman, lawyer and bird enthusiast and given hope, which is registered in ‘The Indian Express’ dated 19/11/2021. 

Ruppell’s Vulture:

  • Class: Old World Classification.
  • Region: African region.
  • Weight: 6.4-9 kgs.
  • Wingspan: 8-9 feet.
  • Lifespan: Around 40-50 years.
Head of the Ruppells Vulture.
They are in danger and should be saved.

The name of this vulture comes from the German naturalist, Eduard Ruppell. He lived in the 17th century and was also an explorer. These vultures fly at great heights searching for food and they have the record for greatest height of flying. The second highest is recorded at 33000 feet which is achieved by common crane. While other birds are having road accidents this vulture has come across an air accident at one instance. About 37000 feet high this vulture collided with an aircraft in 1973.[Vulture Conservation]

These vultures are critically endangered in condition and conservation should be considered. In some regions of Africa these vulture parts are used for traditional medicinal use which have separate markets. Humans should take care of this serious issue.

Slender-billed Vulture:

  • Class: Old World Classification.
  • Region: Southeast Asia and Himalayan region.
  • Weight: 4-7 kgs.
  • Wingspan: 8-10 feet.
  • Lifespan: Around 20 years.

Slender-billed vultures are relatives to the himalayan vultures. There are only around 1000 species left in the World and are critically endangered in the condition. Actually it comes under Indian Vulture species but now separately given a different species name. The Major threat for this vulture is the same drug called diclofenac which is a serious threat to most vultures. They are also monogamous in nature and share the incubation period in the nest. Cambodia has taken different steps for conserving these types of vultures.

They encourage ‘Vulture Ecotourism’ through Wildlife Conservation Society of Cambodia in which they arrange ‘Vulture restaurants’, where the visitors can give food to these majestic birds in a safe and secure way. It is running with the support of some national and international NGOs in the name of The Cambodia Vulture Conservation Project. 

Turkey Vulture:

  • Class: New World Classification.
  • Region: American region.
  • Weight: 0.8-2.3 kgs.
  • Wingspan: 5-6 feet.
  • Lifespan: Around 20 years.
Small and terrific Turkey vulture.
Turns her head back in search of food.

Turkey vultures are small vultures that can defend themselves by vomiting strong stomach acids when disturbed.[Vulture Conservation] Actually they don’t build a full nest, instead they found some place near caves, rocks, tree cavities with leaves etc. which can be used for decades. Turkey vultures have a good sense of smell, which results in them being used in Natural gas leak test regions by petroleum engineers. Ethyl Mercaptan is the same smell released from deceased animals. Turkey vultures can travel 200 miles a day.[Vulture Conservation]

They are the largest number of species in the vulture world of around 18 million species. It is said that they also belong to the stork family. Nero, one of the longest lived turkey vulture in the world under captive.

White-backed Vulture:

  • Class: Old World Classification.
  • Region: African region.
  • Weight: 4-7 kgs.
  • Wingspan: 7.5 feet.
  • Lifespan: Around 20 years.[Vulture Conservation]
Head of the White-backed Vulture.
Image shows the majestic look of the vulture.[Vulture Conservation]

Around 100 species of these vultures can clean up to 100 pound of  carrion in 3 minutes. These White-backed vultures are also monogamous in nature and breed in the hot season. Sometimes, in order to find the food they gorges themselves to the region from where they can’t fly. It is also in serious condition according to IUCN as an endangered species and the major threats are poisoning, killing for meat, etc.[Vulture Conservation] Africans use the vulture parts for medicinal purposes. The population of these vultures is around 270000 in the world. 

White-headed Vulture:

  • Class: Old World Classification.
  • Region: African region.
  • Weight: 3.3-5.3 kgs.
  • Wingspan: 6 feet.
  • Lifespan: Around 20 years.
White-headed spotted in Botswana.
Conservation is needed for this endangered species.

White-headed vultures live in the plain hot regions, even in deserts, etc. It also hunts some of its food by killing small animals.[Vulture Conservation] The population of these species are decreasing and they are marked as critically endangered species according to the IUCN red list and needs special care for conservation. Serious threats to these species are poisoning, change in natural habitat, etc. the estimated population of white-headed vulture is around 2500-10000 in numbers only.[Vulture Conservation]

These vultures are part of the ancient species named Acciptridae which diverged from 49.6 million years ago during the paleogene period.[Vulture Conservation]

White-rumped Vulture:

  • Class: Old World Classification.
  • Region: South and Southeast Asian region.
  • Weight: 3.5-7.5 kgs.
  • Wingspan: 6.3-8.5 feet.
  • Lifespan: At Least 12  years.(under captive)

White-rumped vultures found in cities, towns and villages. These vultures are mentioned as critically endangered and need conservation. The overall population of these species are around 70-115 in numbers and around 68 nests were spotted.[Vulture Conservation] In 68 nests only 30 chicks were fledged out. In november 2020, the Indian government set up an action plan for vulture conservation 2020-2025.

They are planning to establish new breeding centres like Pinjore. The Sigur plateau to be declared as ‘Vulture Sanctuary’ in order to prevent these types of Vultures.[Vulture Conservation] 

Internal links:

The Most Endangered Bird of 2021 you need to know before ending-Erakina

A attractive Nelapattu bird sanctuary you should visit it -Erakina

The Unique traits of the cleverest bird : Parrot – Erakina

External links:

Read more about Vulture conservation

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