Cinereous Vulture Aegypius monachus Scientific name definitions

Alfredo Salvador
Version: 2.0 — Published May 12, 2023



The Cinereous Vulture is widely, but somewhat patchily distributed across the southern Palearctic, including parts of southern Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, and Central, East, and South Asia (66, 1, 2).

Breeding Range

The overall breeding distribution extends from Iberia east to Mongolia and China (1, 2). In Europe, the species breeds in the Iberian Peninsula (Spain and Portugal), southeast France, northeast Greece, Crimea, Türkiye, and in the Caucasus including southern Russia, Armenia, Georgia, and Azerbaijan; it is also present on Mallorca (in the Balearic Islands, Spain) (1, 2, 67, 68, 69, 70). In mainland Iberia nesting areas are concentrated in the southwest: Extremadura, Castilla y León, Madrid, Castilla-La Mancha, and Andalucía (71). In Türkiye, breeding has been recorded in the Türkmenbaba, Hamam, and Sündiken Dağları (all Eskişehir Province), Kızıltas (Balıkesir Province), Uludağ (Bursa Province), Murat Mountain (Kütahya and Uşak provinces), Akdağ and Acıgöl (Denizli and Afyon provinces), Kavaklı Mountain (Bolu and Ankara provinces), Soğuksu National Park (Ankara), Ilgaz Dağları (Çankırı and Kastamonu provinces), Dikmen Mountain (Kastamonu), Kazankaya (Yozgat Province), Kaçkar Dağları (Rize Province), and Ardahan Ormanlı (Ardahan Province) (72, 73).

Further east, in Asia, the Cinereous Vulture breeds in Iran (74), Pakistan (75), and Afghanistan (1, 2, 76). In Kazakhstan, it nests in the Tien Shan Mountains, Dzungaria, Tyshkan, and between Kungey and Ketmen, with some breeding records in Saur and Karagandy (77, 78, 79). In Turkmenistan, it breeds in Kopetdag, Paropamisus, and Bolshie Balkhany Mountains (77), and in Uzbekistan in the western Tien Shan and Pamir-Alay Mountains (77, 79), whilst the species is widely distributed as a breeder in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan (77, 79).

In Mongolia, the species is present in the Altai, Gobi Altai, Trans Altai Gobi, Khangai-Khentii, and Khan-Khokhii Mountains, Great Lakes Depression, Darkhad Depression, Lake Khuvsgul, and central mountain-steppe regions (80). In southern Siberia (Russia), it breeds in Altai Republic and Tuva Republic (81). An occupied nest with an incubating adult was found in 2018 in Oka district (Republic of Buryatia, Russia), just 25 km from the frontier with Mongolia (82). In western and central China, it is present in Xinjiang, Qinghai, Gansu, Ningxia, Mongolia, Shanxi, Sichuan, and Tibet (83).

Nonbreeding Range

In central Europe, the Cinereous Vulture is observed between April and September, as far north as Denmark and Estonia, and the Ural Mts. to 64°N (1, 84). In this region, records were more frequent in the past (85), with more than 60 individuals and 25 records in the former Czechoslovakia between 1800 and 1975 (86). Outside the Caucasus, in European Russia the species has been observed in Dagestan, Kalmykia, Stavropol, and Krasnodar (70).

The distribution in Spain during the non-breeding season (87) is similar to that at other times of year (71). In northwest Africa, juveniles have been recorded during winter in Morocco (88, 89, 90), Algeria (91, 90), Tunisia (92, 90), Western Sahara (93, 90), Mauritania (94), Senegal (95, 96, 97), Mali (95), Burkina Faso (98), and the Niger/Nigeria border region at Sokoto (90).

In the Middle East and East Africa, juveniles have been observed in Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Iran, Saudi Arabia (99, 68, 100, 101, 102), Israel, Egypt, and Sudan (103, 104, 105, 106), and more exceptionally in United Arab Emirates (107), Oman (108), and Yemen (35, 2).

The Cinereous Vulture is observed in summer in the steppes of western Siberia to ca. 55°N (1). Outside the breeding range, in Kazakhstan there are records throughout the country, including the far northwest (78, 109). During winter, the Cinereous Vulture is observed in the arid and semi-arid steppes of southern Kazakhstan (110). Another wintering area is in Primorsky Region (southeast Siberia, Russia), near the Korean Peninsula (111, 112).

In winter, juveniles have been recorded in Nepal (113), although numbers reaching there are now much reduced (114); eastern China (115, 116, 117, 118); and South Korea (119). In India, the species is a rare but regular winter visitor to the north and center of the country, south to latitude 21°N (120, 121). At the same season, it is observed also in the lowlands of Pakistan (122, 75).

Extralimital Records

In southern India, outside the regular winter distribution, there are records in Maharashtra, Telangana, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, and Tamil Nadu (123, 124, 125, 126, 127). There are scarce records in southern China (116, 117). The species has been recorded a few times in Bangladesh (128, 129) and is a rare winter visitor to Myanmar (130, 131). In Japan, there is one historical record (132), with another on Iriomote, in the Ryukyu Islands, in 1967 (133, 134), and most recently one was seen in the Kitakami Mountains, northern Honshu, in December 2015 (135). Outside the regular distribution in Russia, a juvenile was recorded in Yakutsk, Siberia (113), one was seen in the headwaters of the Ola River (60°64′N, 151°22′E) (136), with another at Aytuar Steppe, in Orenburg State Nature Reserve (51°3’47.43”N, 57°39’34.46”E; Orenburg) (137), and one on Iturup Island (in the southern Kurils) (138).

Other extralimital records have included one in 2002 on Batan Island, in the Philippines (139, 140), and in Cambodia it has been observed at Tapon in 1993 (141) and at Preah Vihear Protected Forest in 2009 (142). In Taiwan the species is an occasional winter visitor (143), while it is a vagrant to Peninsular Malaysia (144), including a juvenile in Singapore Botanic Gardens, on 29 December 2021 (145), as well as in Vietnam (146) and it is rare in Thailand (147, 148).

Historical Changes to the Distribution

There is information about historical changes to the distribution in the western Palearctic, but knowledge is probably insufficiently detailed to make an assessment for the east of the species’ range.

In the mid-19th century, the Cinereous Vulture nested in Basses-Alpes (France), eastern Croatia, Fruška Gora (Serbia), Bosnia, Herzegovina, the southern Carpathians (Romania), Transylvania (Romania) (149), the Babadag Region (Romania), Bulgaria, and Tatra Mountains (Slovakia). During 1883‒1886, the species was recorded nesting in the southern Austrian Alps (15, 1). A reduction in the extent of the breeding distribution occurred during the early 1900s in Europe, with many populations disappearing, and only small numbers apparently survived in Spain, Greece, Ukraine, Türkiye, and the Caucasus (1, 2).

The Cinereous Vulture has bred in Morocco in the past; for example, clutches were found in a colony south of Tangier on 19 March 1903 (88), and the Western Foundation of Vertebrate Zoology, Camarillo, CA, has eggs collected in Morocco, either without a precise locality (WFVZ 50000, WFVZ 50002, WFVZ 98963), in the Atlas Mts. (WFVZ 98956), and at Tixa, also in the Atlas (WFVZ 98962).

The species is extirpated in Syria and Israel; it was recorded breeding near Tell Abiad, Syria, in 1955 (150), and at Arbel, in the Galilee, Israel, in 1864 (104). Some insular populations in the Mediterranean are also extirpated. The breeding population on Cyprus was lost by the end of the 1960s (151, 152), and the last nesting record on Sardinia was in 1961 (153). It has been suggested that the species formerly bred on Crete (Greece), where was recorded in 1942, but became locally extirpated around 1980 (154).

The Cinereous Vulture was extirpated in Portugal, but has started to naturally recolonize the country from Spain during the 21st century (155). Reintroductions in France commenced in 1992 in the Grand Causses, in 2004 in Baronnies, and in 2005 in Verdon (156, 157). Two reintroduction projects are also underway in Spain, one started in Boumort and Alinyà (Lleida Province) in 2007 (158, 159, 157). Another project to reintroduce the species was initiated in 2015 in the Sierra de la Demanda (Burgos Province) (157). Yet another reintroduction project, this time in the Balkan Mountains of Bulgaria, was launched in 2018 (157).

Distribution of the Cinereous Vulture - Range Map
  • Year-round
  • Migration
  • Breeding
  • Non-Breeding
Distribution of the Cinereous Vulture

Recommended Citation

Salvador, A. (2023). Cinereous Vulture (Aegypius monachus), version 2.0. In Birds of the World (G. M. Kirwan, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bow.cinvul1.02