Himalayan Vulture

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Common Name: Himalayan Griffon Vulture
Scientific Name: Gyps himalayensis

Size: 41-43 inches (103-110 cm); Wingspan: 102-120 inches (260-315 cm)

Habitat: Asia; found mainly in the higher regions of the Himalayas, the Pamirs, Kazakhstan and on the Tibetan Plateau. Juvenile birds may however disperse further south and vagrants have been recorded in Thailand, Burma, Singapore and Cambodia.

The Himalayan Vulture is recorded being seen at incredible heights. This is because it is a mountain dwelling bird, capable of weathering the low air pressure and cold temperatures that are found at higher altitudes.

Status: Least Concern. Global Population: Unknown amount of mature individuals. They are susceptible to toxicity induced by diclofenac, a drug whose residues in domestic animal carcasses has possibly led to rapid declines in populations of other Gyps vultures across Asia. The Himalayan Griffon Vulture populations have however not shown signs of rapid decline although reductions in nesting birds have been noted in some parts of its range in Nepal.

Diet: Wide variety of carrion. On the Tibetan Plateau 64% of their diet is obtained from dead domestic yak. They feed on old carcasses sometimes waiting a couple of days near a dead animal. They have been observed feeding on pine (Pinus roxburghii) needles, an unexplained behavior that cannot be for obtaining nutrition.

Nesting: The Himalayan Griffon Vultures are very social, like all members of the griffon family. They enjoy feeding, roosting, and even nesting in colonies. The breeding season begins in January. The nest is a platform of sticks placed on an inaccessible ledge on a cliff. Several pairs may nest on the same cliff face. A single white egg marked with red splotches is the usual clutch. In captivity the incubation period was about 54-58 days. The young birds stay on with the parents for six to seven months.

Cool Facts: The Himalayan Vulture perches on crags, favorite sites showing white marks from regular defecation. They bask in the sun on rocks. They soar in thermals and are not capable of sustained flapping flight. Flocks may follow grazers up the mountains in their search for dead animals.

The Himalayan griffon vulture plays a very important role in the history of the Tibetan culture. For most of the year, it was not possible to bury the dead in the rocklike frozen soil. Neither could bodies be cremated, as wood was both rare and expensive. After funeral rites were performed in the home, the body of the dead was taken to the "disposer of bodies." This individual was responsible for feeding the body to the vultures, and ensuring that every last bit of it was consumed. With the Griffons and Cinereous to take care of the meat, and the Lammergeiers to finish off the bones, there was never any problem disposing of the dead. It was also key to the Buddhist reincarnation theory that souls could not be born into a new body until their old one was destroyed. This method is still practiced today, though on a much smaller scale.

Found in Songbird Remix Vultures2

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