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Animal Detail ViewՄանրամասն` նրանց մասին

28.02.2012

Eurasian Black Vulture (Aegypius monachus)


Scientific Classification

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Aves
Order: Accipitriformes
Family: Accipitridae
Subfamily: Aegypiinae
Genus: Aegypius
Species: Aegypius monachus

Description

The Eurasian Black Vulture, also named Monk Vulture or Cinereous Vulture, is one of the world’s largest and heaviest flying birds. It belongs to the family of Old World Vultures, which is separated from the family of New World Vultures.

With a height up to 110 cm high, a length over 1 meter the Eurasian Black Vulture can achieve a wingspan of 2,9 meters and a weigh between 7 and 14 kilograms. The female birds grow larger than the males.

The bird’s plumage is dark black-brown colored and because of thick downs it can cope with low temperatures. Young birds' feathers are much darker than the plumage of adult animals. At the neck the Eurasian Black Vulture's feathers are heightened. This ruffle gives it its characteristic look and protects it from cold wind and weather. Typical of a vulture is its bald head, only covered with small downs. Its strong beak is brown and has a blue cere. Its eyes have a dark brown iris. Compared to other vultures its tail is relatively short and its wings are relatively broad.

As it is typical for an Old World Vulture it has a very good sense of sight so that it can discover carcasses – its predominate food – from long distances.

Range and Habitat

The Black Vulture is endemic to South Europe, some bigger Mediterranean Islands, the Balkans, the Caucasus and wide parts of Turkey and Crimea. Today in Europe it is only found in isolated areas, for instance in Spain, Greece or a small reintroduced population in France. The largest populations are found in northern Near East and Central Asia. In southern regions the animals constantly stay in the same territory. Vultures, which live in northern areas, migrate to warmer regions for wintering. In former times Black Vultures were also resident in northern Africa. Today one can't find these populations anymore, mostly because of deforestation.

They prefer high steppes, hills and mountains and are seen up to a height of 4000 m. The Eurasian Black Vulture inhabits forested areas in hills and mountains at 300-1400 m in Spain, but it is found at higher altitudes in Asia, where it also occupies scrub and arid and semi-arid alpine meadows and grasslands up to 4500 m. Nests are built in high trees or on rocks (the latter extremely rare in Europe but more frequently in parts of Asia), often aggregated in very loose colonies or nuclei.

Behavior

Black Eurasian Vultures are often solitary or form a strong pair bond with another bird. They have a fixed territory and if there is enough food they will stay there permanently. Only young vultures roam until they are mature. Afterwards they will become sedentary.

Using its powerful bill, the bird is able to tear up the skin of dead animals and also to eat chewy parts as sinews. When vultures come together at a carcass the Black Eurasian Vulture often is the dominant species and chases smaller competitors.

The Eurasian Black Vulture usually mates for life. Both male and female incubate and care for the chicks. Both guard the nest site and hunt and regurgitate food for the chicks..

Eurasian Black Vultures literally don’t have natural predators and have a lifespan of about 40 years in the wild; however they are threatened due primarily to changes in their habitat, hunting and loss of food in their habitat range.

Diet

Eurasian Black Vultures eat predominately carrion of dead animals which they find exclusively by sight. Their strong immune system supports them while eating stale meat without getting ill. Sometimes they hunt small and weak mammals, reptiles and birds. Their bills aren't adapted at bagging healthy and large animals.

Vultures never know when they will find their next food. Therefor they have a so called corp – a throat pouch – where they can store food and eat it whenever they want to or bring it to their hatchlings safely.

Reproduction

After 5 to 6 years a Eurasian Black Vulture is mature. If it finds a partner, the couple will stay together the whole life. The nest is built out of branches in a high tree, mostly on hillside, where the heavy birds can use thermal winds to start flight. The female only lays one egg and both adult birds take care of the incubation. After 50 to 55 days the young vulture hatches out with a weight of circa 200 gram. Its food is regurgitated by its parents.

Conservation Status

On the red-list of IUCN the status of Eurasian Black Vultures is qualified as “Near Threatened”.

The European population underwent a large increase over 30 percent between 1990 and 2000. Meanwhile there are some increasing populations again and in some nation the animals have been reintroduced. Unfortunately, numbers are decreasing in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Russia, Turkey and the Ukraine. Less information is available about ranges in Asia. The number is estimated to count over 1,000 pairs in the Asian part of the former Soviet Union and 1,760 pairs in China. Worldwide a number of 7,200 to 10,000 pairs are assumed. 

Differences between New World Vultures and Old World Vultures

There are two families of vultures: The New World and the Old World Vultures. Black Vultures belong to the Old World Vultures, but what are the differences?

One aspect is their habit: New World Vultures are from North, Central and South America, whereas Old World Vultures live in Africa, Asia and Europe. In contrast to Old World Vultures, the New World ones don't have a voice box and can only hiss. The latter also don't built nests but hide their eggs in holes of high and rocky areas or in cavities of trees. With their horizontal nostrils, which have a space between them, New World Vultures possess a good sense of smell that Old World Vultures don't have. The feet of New World Vultures aren't built for grabbing while their older relatives have powerful feet.

Vultures in cultures

For many people vultures symbolize death and doom, predominately because of its eating habits.  Nevertheless also many cultures admired this bird:

For the old Egyptians the vulture was a symbol for love and motherhood, because they are monogamous and have a strong bond to their children. Their wide wingspan was a symbol for the ability to protect. The Egyptian Vulture was even used as representative for the goddess Nekhbes and as a hieroglyph which includes words like mother and grandmother. The vulture developed to the symbol of Upper Egypt.

In the Hindu mythology two semi-gods appear in form of two vultures named Jatayu and Sampaati. Their legend is about courage and self-sacrifice. Sampaati loses his own wings saving his brother's life and later Jatayu dies when he tries to rescue Sita, wife of the god Rama.

In Tibet still exists the ritual of the sky burial. The human corpse is placed on a steep mountain slope or mountain top. Then vultures will come and ate the human corpses.

In the western world mainly the negative image exists. If one sees the importance of vultures for  the ecosystem as cleaners this reputation is actually quite unfair.

Short Facts

  • When a vulture is upset, its head turns red.
  • The name “Monk Vulture” for the Eurasian Black Vulture is the direct    translation of its German name “Mönchsgeier”, which refers to its appearance with bald head and riffle, which reminds the spectator of a monk's cowl.
  • Despite the similar name the Eurasian Black Vulture is not directly related to the American Black Vulture that belongs to the New World Vultures. To distinct the Eurasian from the American, it was deliberately renamed with the Latin name Cinereous Vulture. 

 

 



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