Cinereous Vulture Aegypius monachus Scientific name definitions

Alfredo Salvador
Version: 2.0 — Published May 12, 2023


Systematics History

Vultur monachus Linnaeus, 1766, Systema Naturae, 12th edition, Tomus I, part 1, p. 122.—based on “The Crested or Coped Black Vulture” of Edwards, 1760, Gleanings of Natural History, part 2, p. 171, Plate 290; type locality Arabia (31).

In cases where Linnaeus based his name on a prior indication, usually no type specimen is in existence.

Vultur cinereus J. F. Gmelin 1788, Systema Naturae, 13th edition, Tomus I, part 1, p. 247.—Europe [“frequent in its high mountains”] (32). Based on prior indications by, among others, Buffon, Willughby, and Latham. No type material known to exist.
Vultur chincou Daudin, 1800, Traité élémentaire et complet d’Ornithologie, Tome 2, p. 12.—Daudin (33) based his name on Levaillant’s Histoire Naturelle des Oiseaux d’Afrique; locality restricted to northeastern China by Hachisuka (34). No type material known to exist.
Vultur vulgaris Daudin 1800, Traité élémentaire et complet d’Ornithologie, Tome 2, p. 16.—high mountains of Europe. Daudin (33) took as his indication for this name a variety of sources including works by Brisson, Buffon, Willughby, and Latham. No type material known to exist.
Vultur niger Daudin, 1800, Traité élémentaire et complet d’Ornithologie, Tome 2, p. 17.—Egypt and Sardinia. In this case, Daudin (33) based his nomen on a variety of prior indications including Gmelin and Latham. No type material known to exist.
Vultur arrianus Daudin 1800, Traité élémentaire et complet d’Ornithologie, Tome 2, p. 18.—Pyrenees. Daudin (33) took as his basis an earlier work on the zoology of the Pyrenees. No type material known to exist.
Ægypius monachus danieli R. Meinertzhagen, 1938, Bulletin of the British Ornithologists’ Club 58:94.—Changai, Mongolia. The holotype is an adult female collected in June 1929, held in the Zoological Institute, Russian Academy of Science, St. Petersburg (35); see Hachisuka (34) for synonymization.

Currently, Cinereous Vulture is included in the monospecific genus Aegypius Savigny, 1809 (36).

Geographic Variation

Morphological studies to date, although based on small sample sizes, suggest that there is clinal variation characterized by an increase in size from west to east across the species’ distribution (35, 1, 2).

Genetic studies of Cinereous Vulture populations have recovered low levels of diversity in mitochondrial DNA and moderate levels in nuclear microsatellite markers (37, 38, 39). One molecular study identified seven different mitochondrial haplotypes comprising four allopatric lineages, namely, one in the Iberian Peninsula, another in the Balkans, a third lineage in Armenia, Georgia, and Kazakhstan, and a fourth in Mongolia (37). Using the same sample, nuclear microsatellite markers revealed two large population clusters, one in Mongolia and the other cluster formed by populations in Europe and western Asia, whilst a phylogeographic analysis pointed to an east‒west clinal distribution and allopatric differentiation (37). Within Türkiye, no significant genetic structure was recovered from samples of multiple populations (40).



Related Species

Formerly, the genera Aegypius, Torgos, Trigonoceps, Sarcogyps, Necrosyrtes, and Gyps were all assigned to the subfamily Aegypiinae (41). Recent phylogenetic studies, however, indicate that this clade is apparently a polyphyletic group comprising two separate lineages, one made up of the genera Necrosyrtes and Gyps, with the remainder of the genera in the other lineage (42, 43). In consequence, Seibold and Helbig (42) proposed to restrict the subfamily Aegypiinae to the genera Aegypius, Torgos, Trigonoceps, and Sarcogyps.

The Cinereous Vulture is the sister taxon to the Lappet-faced Vulture (Torgos tracheliotos) (44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 43). The White-headed Vulture (Trigonoceps occipitalis) is sister to the Cinereous Vulture and the Lappet-faced Vulture (46, 47, 48, 43), and the Red-headed Vulture (Sarcogyps calvus) is sister to these three species (43).


No instances reported.


The genus name Aegypius is derived from Greek, meaning vulture, and the species name monachus from Latin, meaning monk (49).

Fossil History

Fossils from the Upper Pleistocene, attributed to the Cinereous Vulture, have been found at Temnata, Bulgaria (50), with remains from the Middle Pleistocene found at Binagady, Azerbaijan (51), Pedrera de S’Ònix, Mallorca, Spain (52), and Galería, (Sierra de Atapuerca, Spain (53). Fossils attributed to this species and dating from the Lower Pleistocene have been recovered from deposits at Sandalja, Croatia; Grotte de la Vache, France; Hayonim Cave, Kebara, and Qafzeh, Israel; Grotta del Principe, Italy; and Gabasa, Spain (51). Remains from the Paleolithic have been reported from Ksâr’Akil, Lebanon (54), La Férrassie, (55), and Grotta Romanelli, Italy (56). Fossils of Cinereous Vulture from the Late Pleistocene/Cenozoic were found in deposits at Liko Cave, Crete, Greece (57), and from the Early Holocene (11,700‒11,400 BP) at Hallan Çemi (Türkiye) (58).

Cinereous Vulture remains from the Mousterian period (160,000‒40,000 BP) were identified at Il’skaya I, Caucasus, Russia (59), and Curata Cave, Romania (60). Fossils attributed to the species from the Riss Glacial Stage (2.6 million to 11,700 BP) have been found at La Fage, France (61), and others from Riss-Würm Interglacial Stage deposits in Grotte de l’Observatoire, Combe-Grenal, Bruniquel, Petit Puymoyen, and Bourgeois-Delaunay, France (61). Remains were also found at Ifri n’Ammar, Morocco, in Iberomaurusian deposits (13,800‒17,000 BP) (62).

Finally, remains of the Cinereous Vulture have been identified at the settlement of Shahr-i Sokhta, Seistan, Iran (third Millennium BC) (63). Subfossil remains dating from the classical Greek period to Middle Ages were identified at Torone, Greece (64), and have been found at food dumps of Roman period in the Netherlands at Valkenburg-De Woerd (late first century AD) and Tiel-Passewaaijse Hogeweg (270‒350 AD), and in Belgium, at Oudenburg-Spegelaere (late fourth century AD), Tienen-Zijdelingsestraat (first century AD), Tongeren-Hondstraat (third century AD), and Arlon-NEU (end of the third century AD) (65).

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