This long-lived species qualifies as Endangered owing to a recent and extremely rapid population decline in India (presumably resulting from poisoning by the veterinary drug Diclofenac) combined with severe long-term declines in Europe (>50% over the last three generations [42 years]) and West Africa, plus ongoing declines through much of the rest of its African range.
AERC TAC. 2003. AERC TAC Checklist of bird taxa occurring in Western Palearctic region, 15th Draft. Available at: http://www.aerc.eu/DOCS/Bird_taxa_of _the_WP15.xls.
Cramp, S.; Perrins, C. M. 1977-1994. Handbook of the birds of Europe, the Middle East and Africa. The birds of the western Palearctic. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
Dowsett, R. J.; Forbes-Watson, A. D. 1993. Checklist of birds of the Afrotropical and Malagasy regions. Tauraco Press, Li
Sibley, C. G.; Monroe, B. L. 1990. Distribution and taxonomy of birds of the world. Yale University Press, New Haven, USA.
Distribution and populationNeophron percnopterus
55-65 cm. Wingspan 155-170 cm. Medium-large. Characteristic flight silhouette with broad, well-fingered wings and a wedge-shaped tail. Yellow face and base to the bill with a black tip. Plumage is pale grey with some buff on the head and neck. Primaries and secondaries are black showing contrast with underwing-coverts below and unique white centres above. Juveniles are largely dark brown with contrasting area of pale buff.
occupies a large range with isolated resident populations in the Cape Verde and Canary Islands in the west, through Morocco
and parts of West Africa (Ferguson-Lees et al
. 2001). A small resident population persists in Angola
. The bulk of the resident population occurs in Ethiopia
and East Africa, Arabia and the Indian Subcontinent,while Saharan and Sahelian parts of Africa in Algeria
northernmost Cameroon, Chad
and northern Sudan
also hold significant but presumably smaller populations (I. Angelov in litt.
2012). Migratory birds breed in Northernmost Africa (Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya,
), southern Europe, from Spain
in the west, through the Mediterranean, Turkey
, the Caucasus and central Asia to Northern Iran, Pakistan
, northern India
. These birds winter within the resident range, and in addition throughout the Sahel region of Africa. Global population estimates for the species are crude, but combining figures of 3,300-5,050 pairs in Europe (Iñigo et al.
2008), <2,000 pairs in central Asia, just a few thousand pairs now in the Indian Subcontinent, perhaps 1,000 pairs in the Middle East, and perhaps 1,000-2,000 pairs in Africa (Thiollay 1989, I. Angelov in litt.
2012) gives a rough total of around 21,900-30,000 individuals. The European population has declined by over 50% in the last three generations
(BirdLife International 2004). In Spain, which with at least 1,300 pairs may support as much as 40% of the European breeding population, the number of territories declined by at least 25% between 1987-2000 (i.e. equating to a decline of >50% over three generations)
(Donázar 2004, Del Moral 2009), likely due to high mortality rates (Cortés-Avizanda et al.
2009). Similar declines are reported from the Middle East
(S. Aspinall in litt.
2005), e.g. 50-75% in Israel
, however in Oman
the population appears stable
(J. Eriksen in litt.
2005), although this may be more a reflection of count methods rather than genuine stability in the population. Around 1,700 birds are resident in a stable population on the island of Socotra (Porter and Suleiman in prep
.). The resident populations within Africa also appear to have declined, including those in Ethiopia and Djibouti
(G. Mulholland in litt
. 2006), and Angola and Namibia (where just 10 pairs remain)
(R. Simmons in litt.
2006). Across much of Africa residents are outnumbered by migrant European and probably Asian breeders
(J. M. Thiollay in litt
. 2006, I. Angelov in litt.
2012). Most critically, the species has undergone a catastrophic decline (>35% per year) since 1999 in India, where numbers detected on road transects declined by 68% between 2000 and 2003
(Cuthbert et al
. 2006), while on the Balkans a decline of nearly 50% was noted between 2003-2011 (I. Angelov in litt.
2012). Population justification
In Europe, the breeding population is estimated to number 3,300-5,050 breeding pairs, equating to 9,900-15,150 individuals. Europe forms 25-49% of the global range, so a very preliminary estimate of the global population size is 20,000-61,000 individuals, roughly equivalent to 13,000-41,000 mature individuals, although further validation of this estimate is needed.Trend justification
The species declining in virtually all parts of its range, apparently for a number of different reasons. In India, it has declined by >90% in the last decade; European populations have declined by >50% over the last three generations, and West, East and southern African populations also appear to have declined significantly, as do Arabian populations (Jennings 2010).Ecology
Typically nests on ledges or in caves on cliffs
(Sarà and Di Vittorio 2003), crags and rocky outcrops, but occasionally also in large trees, buildings (mainly in India), electricity pylons (Naoroji 2006) and exceptionally on the ground (Gangoso and Palacios 2005). Forages in lowland and montane regions over open, often arid, country. A
lso scavenges at human settlements. Broad diet including carrion, tortoises, organic waste, insects, young vertebrates, eggs and even faeces. Usually solitary, but will congregate at feeding sites, such as rubbish tips, or vulture restaurants (i.e. supplementary feeding stations), and forms roosts of non-breeding birds (Ceballos & Donázar 1990
). Performs an energetic display flight with mate. Several resident island populations show genetic isolation. Northern breeders conduct long-distance intercontinental migrations, flying over land and often utilising the narrowest part of the Strait of Gibraltar on their way to Africa (García-Ripollés et al.
2010). The species exhibits high site fidelity, particularly in males (Elorriaga et al
. 2009; García-Ripollés et al.
This species faces a number of threats across its range. Disturbance, lead poisoning (from gun shot), direct poisoning, electrocution (by powerlines), collisions with wind turbines, reduced food availability and habitat change are currently impacting upon European populations
(Donázar et al
. 2002; N. Petkov in litt
. 2005; Kurtev et al.
2008; Angelov et al.
in prep. 2011; Zuberogoitia et al.
2008; Carrete et al.
2009; Sara et al.
2009; Dzhamirzoev and Bukreev 2009). Illegal poisoning against carnivores seems to be the main threat operating on the breeding grounds in Spain (Hernandez and Margalida 2009) and the Balkans (I. Angelov in.
litt. 2012). Declines in parts of Africa are likely to have been driven by loss of wild ungulate populations and, in some areas, overgrazing by livestock
(Mundy et al.
1992). Within the European Union, regulations introduced in 2002, controlling the disposal of animal carcasses, greatly reduced food availability, notably through the closure of traditional "muladares
" in Spain and Portugal
(Donázar 2004; Lemus et al
. 2008; J. C. Atienza in litt
. 2007, Donázar et al. 2009, Donázar et al. 2010a, Cortés-Avizanda et al. 2010,
Cortés-Avizanda 2011); however, recently passed regulations will permit the operation of feeding stations for scavengers
(A. Brunner in litt
. 2010). Poisoning is a threat to the species, often through the use of poison baits targeted at terrestrial predators (Carrete et al. 2007, Carrete et al. 2009, Cortés-Avizanda et al. 2009
), and through the consumption of inappropriately disposed poisoned animals. Recent analyses from many countries such as Spain (Lemus et al. 2008) and Bulgaria (Angelov 2009) have highlighted high levels of contamination of Egyptian Vultures leading to increased mortality. Antiobiotic residues present in the carcasses of intensively-farmed livestock may increase the susceptibility of nestlings to disease (Lemus et al
. 2008) (e.g. avian pox has been reported as a cause of mortality in Bulgaria
[Kurtev et al.
2008]). It appears that Diclofenac, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) often used for livestock, and which is fatal to Gyps
spp. when ingested at livestock carcasses (BirdLife International news [www.birdlife.org/news] 2007), is driving the recent rapid declines in India
(Cuthbert et al
. 2006, A. Rahmani in litt. 2012). NSAIDs are reportedly toxic to raptors, storks, cranes and owls, suggesting that vultures of other genera could be susceptible to its effects
(BirdLife International news [www.birdlife.org/news] 2007). It seems plausible that this species previously had less exposure to the toxin owing to competitive exclusion from carcasses by Gyps
(Cuthbert et al
. 2006). In 2007, Diclofenac was found to be on sale at a veterinary practice in Tanzania
(BirdLife International news [www.birdlife.org/news] 2007). In addition, it was reported that in Tanzania, a Brazilian manufacturer has been aggressively marketing the drug for veterinary purposes
(C. Bowden in litt
. 2007) and exporting it to 15 African countries
(BirdLife International news [www.birdlife.org/news] 2007). Mortality at power lines has been found to be particularly common on the Canary Islands (Donazar et al. 2002, Donazar et al.
2007a) and potentially risky in other regions of Spain (Donazar et al.
2007b, 2010b) and in Africa (Nikolaus 1984, 2006), with 17 individuals found killed by electrocution in Port Sudan, over 10 days in 2010 (I. Angelov in litt.
2010), indicating a potentially serious problem that has persisted for decades and will continue to contribute to Egyptian Vulture population declines. In Morocco at least, the species is taken for use in traditional medicine. Competition for suitable nest sites with Griffon Vulture may reduce breeding success
in the short-term (Kurtev et al.
2008). Conservation Actions Underway
Occurs within a number of protected areas across its range. Monitoring programmes, supplementary feeding (Cortés-Avizanda et al. 2010)
and campaigns against illegal use of poisons, including awareness-raising, are in place for a number of national populations. The veterinary drug Diclofenac has now been banned by the Indian government. In 2007, a survey began to establish the extent of Diclofenac use for veterinary purposes in Tanzania
(BirdLife International news [www.birdlife.org/news] 2007). An International species action plan for the species was published in 2008 (Iñigo et al.
2008). National species action plans are in place in France, Bulgaria and Italy, and the species is included in the Balkan Vulture Action Plan (BVAP). Efforts are being taken to release captive-bred individuals in parts of Italy. In Spain, France, Italy, Bulgaria and Macedonia birds have been fitted with satellite-tags to study juvenile dispersion, migratory movements and wintering areas (e.g. García-Ripollés et al.
2010). Nest guarding schemes for pairs that are most threatened by poachers have been implemented in Italy and Bulgaria, where very small populations survive. Expeditions to study the limiting factors in the wintering areas and along the migration flyway have taken place together with local organizations in Mauritania, Senegal, Ethiopia, Sudan and Turkey. Conservation Actions Proposed
Start and maintain intensive cooperation with local key stake-holders to ensure poison- and poaching-free zones at sites with high densities or congregations of the species throughout the breeding, migration and wintering range, alongside similar efforts for other threatened species. Build capacity in countries along the migration flyways and in the wintering areas. Protect nest sites where persecution is a problem. Research the causes and extent of current declines across the species's range. Insulate dangerous electricity pylons in areas where high mortality is recorded. Coordinate monitoring to assess trends throughout the range. Relax the European Union animal hygiene regulations in relation to necrophagous birds. Establish supplementary feeding sites where appropriate, especially at sites where congregations of non-breeders can be supported. Raise awareness amongst pastoralists in Africa of the dangers of using Diclofenac for livestock
(BirdLife International news [www.birdlife.org/news] 2007). Effectively reduce risks of poisoning through strict enforcement of poison-bait ban and education. Lobby for the banning of Diclofenac for veterinary purposes throughout the species's range, and support the enforcement of this ban where it has been adopted. Where applicable, establish the impact of wind turbines, and lobby for effective impact assessments to be carried out prior to their construction. Where appropriate, reduce disturbance by guarding nests.Where appropriate, guard nests to reduce disturbance. Confiscate illegally kept live birds and use them for the purposes of captive breeding and future restocking and reintroduction programs. In key areas of the species range, implement long term and large-scale education and community involvement program.
Related state of the world's birds case studies
Angelov, I. 2009. Egyptian Vultures Neophron percnopterus exposed to toxic substances. BirdLife Europe e-News 3(2): 7.
Angelov, I., Hashim, I. and Oppel, S. In prep. Persistent electrocution mortality of Egyptian Vultures Neophron percnopterus over 28 years in East Africa.
BirdLife International. 2004. Birds in Europe: population estimates, trends and conservation status. BirdLife International, Cambridge, U.K.
BirdLife International. 2008. Drugs firms told to do more to prevent vulture extinctions. Available at: #http://www.birdlife.org/news/news/2008/08/indian_drug_announcemment.html#.
Carrete, M., Grande, J.M., Tella, J.L., Snchez-Zapata, J.A., Donazar, J.A., Díaz-Delgado R. and Romo, A. 2007. Habitat, human pressure, and social behavior: Partialling out factors affecting large-scale territory extinction in an endangered vulture. Biological Conservation 136(1): 143-154.
Carrete, M.; Sánchez-Zapata, J. A.; Benítez, J. R.; Lobón, M.; Donázar, J. A. 2009. Large-scale risk-assessment of wind-farms on population viability of a globally-endangered long-lived raptor. Biological Conservation 142: 2954-2961.
Ceballos, O.; Donázar, J. A. 1990. Roost-tree characteristics, food habits and seasonal abundance of roosting Egyptian Vultures in northern Spain. Journal of Raptor Research 24: 19-25.
Cortés-Avizanda, A. 2011. Ecological effects of spatial heterogeneity and predictability in the distribution of resources: individuals, populations and guild of scavengers. PhD Thesis, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid.
Cortés-Avizanda, A., Carrete, M. and Donázar, J.A. 2010. Managing supplementary feeding for avian scavengers: guidelines for optimal design using ecological criteria. Biological Conservation 143: 1707-1715.
Cortés-Avizanda, A.; Ceballos, O.; Donázar, J. A. 2009. Long-term trends in population size and breeding success in the Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus) in northern Spain. Journal of Raptor Research 43(1): 43-49.
Cuthbert, R.; Green, R.E.; Ranade, S.; Saravanan, S.; Pain, D.J.; Prakash, V.; Cunningham, A. A. 2006. Rapid population declines of Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus) and Red-headed Vulture (Sarcogyps calvus) in India. Animal Conservation 9(3): 349-354.
Del Moral, J.C. (Ed.). 2009. El alimoche común en España. Población reproductora en 2008 y método de censo. SEO/Birdlife, Madrid.
Donázar J.A., Benítez, J.A. 2007. La industria eólica, otra amenaza para el alimoche en el sur de Cádiz. Quercus 226: 68-69.
Donázar, J. A. 2004. Alimoche Común Neophron percnopterus. In: Madroño, A., González, C., Atienza, J.C. (ed.), Libro Rojo de las Aves de España, pp. 129-131. Dirección General para la Biodiversidad & SEO/BirdLife, Madrid.
Donázar, J. A.; Margalida, A.; Campión, D. 2009. Vultures, feeding stations and sanitary legislation: a conflict and its consequences from the perpective of conservation biology. Sociedad de Ciencias Aranzadi, San Sebastian, Spain.
Donázar, J.A., Cortés-Avizanda, A., Carrete, M. 2010. Dietary shifts in two vultures after the demise of supplementary feeding stations: consequences of the EU sanitary legislation. European Journal of Wildlife Research 56: 613-621.
Donazar, J.A., Palacios, C.J., Gangoso, L., Ceballos, O., Gonzalez, M.J. and Hiraldo, F. 2007. Conservation status and limiting factors in the endangered population of Egyptian vulture (Neophron percnopterus) in the Canary Islands. Biological Conservation 107(1): 89-97.
Donzar, J. A.; Palacios, C. J.; Gangoso, L.; Ceballos, O.; Gonzlez, M. J.; Hiraldo, F. 2002. Conservation status and limiting factors in the endangered population of Egyptian vulture (Neophron percnopterus) in the Canary Islands. Biological Conservation 107: 89-97.
Dzhamirzoev, G. S.; Bukreev, S. A. 2009. Status of Egyptian Vulture Neophron percnopterus in the North Caucasus, Russian Federation. Sandgrouse 31(2): 128-133.
Elorriaga, J.; Zuberogoitia, I.; Castillo, I.; Azkona, A.; Hidalgo, S.; Astorkia, L.; Ruiz-Moneo, F.; Iraeta, A. 2009. First documented case of long-distance dispersal in the Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus). Journal of Raptor Research 43(2): 142-145.
Ferguson-Lees, J.; Christie, D. A. 2001. Raptors of the world. Christopher Helm, London.
Gangoso, L., Palacios, C.-J. 2005. Ground nesting by Egyptian Vultures (Neophron percnopterus) in the Canary Islands. Journal of Raptor Research 39: 186-187.
García-Ripollés, C.; López-López, P.; Urios, V. 2010. First description of migration and wintering of adult Egyptian Vultures Neophron percnopterus tracked by GPS satellite telemetry. Bird Study 57(2): 261-265.
Hernández, A. E., and Margalida, A. 2009. Poison-related mortality effects in the endangered Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus) population in Spain. European Journal of Wildlife Research 55: 415-423.
Iñigo A., Barov B., Orhun C., Gallo-Orsi U. 2008. Action plan for the Egyptian Vulture Neophron percnopterus in the European Union. BirdLife International for the European Commission.
Jennings, M. C. 2010. Atlas of the breeding birds of Arabia. Senckenberg Gesellschaft für Naturforschung and King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology, Frankfurt am Main, Germany and Riyadh.
Kurtev, M.; Iankov, P.; Angelov, I. 2005. National Action plan for Conservation of the Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus) in Bulgaria.
Lemus, J. A.; Blanco, G.; Grande, J.; Arroyo, B.; García-Montijano, M; Martínez, F. 2008. Antibiotics threaten wildlife: circulating quinolone residues and disease in avian scavengers. PLoS ONE: 1-6.
Mundy, P.; Butchart, D.; Ledger, J.; Piper, S. 1992. The vultures of Africa. Academic Press, London.
Naoroji, R. 2006. Birds of prey of the Indian subcontinent. Christopher Helm, London.
Nikolaus, G. 1984. Large numbers of birds killed by electric power line. Scopus 8(42).
Nikolaus, G. 2006. Commentary: where have the African vultures gone? Vulture News: 65-67.
Porter, R. F. and Suleiman, A. S. In prep. The Population and Distribution of Breeding Birds of Socotra. BirdLife International/ SCDP.
Sarà, M.; Di Vittorio, M. 2003. Factors influencing the distribution, abundance and nest-site selection of an endangered Egyptian vulture (Neophron percnopterus) population in Sicily. Animal Conservation 6(4): 317-328.
Sara, M.; Grenci, S.; Di Vittorio, M. 2009. Status of Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus) in Sicily. Journal of Raptor Research 43(1): 66-69.
Thiollay, J. -M. 1989. Distribution and ecology of Palearctic birds of prey wintering in West and central Africa. In: Meyburg, B.-U.; Chancellor, R.D. (ed.), Raptors in the modern World: proceedings of the III World conference on birds of prey and owls. Eilat, Israel 22-27 March 1987, pp. 95-109. World Working Group on Birds of Prey and Owls, Berlin and London.
Zuberogoitia, I.; Zabala, J.; Martínez, J. A.; Martínez, J. E.; Azkona, A. 2008. Effect of human activities on Egyptian Vulture breeding. Animal Conservation 11(4): 313-320.
Further web sources of information
Detailed species account from Birds in Europe: population estimates, trends and conservation status (BirdLife International 2004)
Text account compilers
Bird, J., Butchart, S., Derhé, M., Pople, R., Taylor, J.
Abdusalyamov, I., Angelov, I., Aspinall, S., Atienza, J., Baral, H., Barlow, C., Barov, B., Belyalova, L., Bowden, C., Brunner, A., Buketov, M., Bukreev, S., Bustamov, E., Camina, A., Cortes, J., Cuthbert, R., Efimenko, N., Eriksen, J., Fundukchiev, S., G
IUCN Red List evaluators
Butchart, S., Symes, A.
BirdLife International (2014) Species factsheet: Neophron percnopterus. Downloaded from
http://www.birdlife.org on 09/03/2014.
Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2014) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from
http://www.birdlife.org on 09/03/2014.
This information is based upon, and updates, the information published in BirdLife International (2000)
Threatened birds of the world. Barcelona and Cambridge, UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, BirdLife International (2004)
Threatened birds of the world 2004 CD-ROM and BirdLife International (2008) Threatened birds of the world 2008 CD-ROM. These sources provide the information for species accounts for the birds on the IUCN Red List.
To provide new information to update this factsheet or to correct any errors, please email BirdLife
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Additional resources for this species