Species names in all available languages
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Alfredo Salvador revised the account. Peter Pyle contributed to the Plumages, Molts, and Structure page. Todd E. Katzner reviewed the draft. Audrey Su and Arnau Bonan Barfull curated the media. Eliza R. Wein updated the distribution map. Leo Gilman copyedited the account.
Aegypius monachus (Linnaeus, 1766)
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The Cinereous Vulture is a very large scavenger, with a large head and bill, relatively short neck, very long and broad wings, and a short wedge-shaped tail. Its plumage is relatively uniform, blackish in juveniles and dark brown in adults, except the head which is paler in the adult. The species has a wide range, being present in southern Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, and in Central, East, and southern Asia, and occurs in a variety of habitats throughout this distribution, from Mediterranean forests, mountains, steppe regions, and deserts. Breeding pairs appear to be sedentary or elevational or short-distance migrants throughout the species’ range. Juveniles and immatures migrate south in autumn to East and South Asia, the Middle East and North Africa, with the birds returning in spring.
The Cinereous Vulture generally forages solitarily and feeds on carrion of vertebrates, although it has also been observed hunting relatively small live prey and robbing other predators of food. The species typically spends 7–11 hours each day foraging. It is a dominant species at carcasses, with feeding birds exhibiting agonistic behavior toward other individuals to maintain their position. When the species is searching for food, it typically circles using thermals, but also soars in a straight line, and glides with just an occasional wingbeat.
The species is typically monogamous, but breeding trios have been recorded, and it congregates to breed in loose colonies, although some pairs nest alone. Nests are constructed on trees or cliffs. Territorial at its nesting sites, the species can behave aggressively towards conspecifics. Aerial displays occur between December and early February, with egg laying between early February and early May. Females typically lay a single egg, but clutches of two are recorded; replacement clutches may be laid 15 or more days after the first is lost. The male and female take turns during the incubation period of 50–68 days, with hatching occurring between mid-March and May, and fledging during August and September, when the young are 88–137 days old. The immature stage generally ranges from 1‒4 years age.
As a result of active conservation measures, the Spanish population increased from 206 pairs in 1973 to 2,548 pairs in 2017. Reintroduction of the species in France has also been successful, but the status of most Asian populations is poorly known. The Cinereous Vulture is legally protected in most countries where the species breeds. However, threats remain across its distribution, mainly due to unintentional poisoning, habitat degradation, collision with wind turbines and power lines, electrocution, illegal killing, and human disturbance.