White-rumped Vulture

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Common Name: White-rumped Vulture
Scientific Name: Gyps bengalensis

Size: inches (75-85 cm); Wingspan: 76-102 inches (192-260 cm)

Habitat: Asia; northern and central India, Pakistan, Nepal, and Southeast Asia. Movements are poorly known, although satellite-tagged birds have shown that they will forage over a vast range. It occurs mostly in plains and less frequently in hilly regions where it utilizes light woodland, villages, cities, and open areas.

Status: Critically Endangered. Global Population: 2500-9999 mature individuals. As recently as 1985 the species was described as "possibly the most abundant large bird of prey in the world”. Since then, the species declined in South-East Asia during the 20th century, apparently as a result of the collapse of large ungulate populations owing to over-harvesting by human hunters. Declines in the major part of the population throughout the Indian Subcontinent probably began in the 1990s and were very rapid, resulting in an overall population decline of greater than 99% over a 10-15 year period. The anti-inflammatory veterinary drug diclofenac, used to treat domestic livestock, has been identified as the cause of mortality, with renal failure resulting in visceral gout in the vast majority of examined vultures. It has been reported from many protected areas across its range. The governments of India, Nepal and Pakistan passed legislation in 2006 banning the manufacture and importation of diclofenac as a veterinary drug, with India passing further legislation in 2008 banning the manufacture, sale, distribution or use of veterinary diclofenac.

Diet: Mostly livestock carrion, both putrid and fresh. While feeding considerable aggregations can form, and regular communal roost sites are used. It is social and usually found in conspecific flocks.

Nesting: The White-rumped Vulture is a typical, medium-sized vulture, with an unfeathered head and neck, very broad wings, and short tail feathers. It is much smaller than the Eurasian Griffon Vulture. It has a white neck ruff. The adult's whitish back, rump, and under wing coverts contrast with the otherwise dark plumage. The body is black and the secondaries are silvery grey. The head is tinged in pink and bill is silvery with dark ceres. The nostril openings are slit-like. Juveniles are largely dark and take about four or five years to acquire the adult plumage. In flight, the adults show a dark leading edge of the wing and has a white wing-lining on the underside. The under tail coverts are black.

This vulture builds its nest on tall trees often near human habitations. The preferred nesting trees were Banyan, Peepul, Arjun, and Neem. The main nesting period was November to March with eggs being laid mainly in January. The male initially brings twigs which are arranged to form the nest by the female. Courtship involves the male billing the head, back and neck of the female. The female invites copulation and the male mounts and hold the head of the female in his bill. Several pairs may nest in the vicinity of each other. Isolated nests tend to be those of younger birds and are sometimes taken over by the Red-headed Vulture and large.

Nests are nearly 3 feet in diameter and half a foot in thickness. Prior to laying an egg, the nest is lined with green leaves. A single egg is laid which is white with a hint of bluish-green. Female birds are reported to destroy the nest on loss of an egg. They are usually silent but make hissing and roaring sounds at the nest or when jostling for food. The eggs hatch after about 30 to 35 days of incubation. The young chick is covered in grey down. The parents feed them with bits of meat from carcasses. The young birds remain for about three months at the nest.

Cool Facts: This is the smallest of the Gyps vultures.

These birds are usually inactive until the morning sun has warmed up the air with sufficient thermals to support their soaring. They circle and rise in altitude and join move off in a glide to change thermals. Large numbers were once visible in the late morning skies above Indian cities.

Found in Songbird Remix Vultures2

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