Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus)

It is a dull, fairish-sized vulture, with a conspicuous somber-looking yellow face. The narrow bill is also yellow, accentuated by a black tip. During its flight, its flight feathers show dark fingers, effectively contrasting with its whitish inner feathers. Frequents open to semiopen regions, preferring cliffs rarely on trees. Like other vultures, it feeds on carcasses and scavenges on rubbish dumps, serving as a vital part of the “clean out” crew of our ecosystem.

Read further to know more about the Egyptian Vulture.

What is an Egyptian Vulture?

Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus), also known as the Pharaoh’s Chicken or the White Scavenger Vulture, is a vulture species of the Old World. It has a wide range, occurring from the Iberian Peninsula of Europe to North Africa, Asia, and India. These vultures are opportunistic feeders, feeding primarily feed on carrion, but may also prey on smaller mammals, reptiles, and birds.

Its seven levels of classification are as follows:

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Aves

Order: Accipitriformes

Family: Accipitridae

Genus: Neophron

Species: N. percnopterus

Egyptian Vulture Physical Description

Egyptian Vultures are small Old World Vultures, measuring 19 to 26 inches or 47 to 65 centimeters, and weighing around 1.9 to 2.4 kilograms, with a wingspan around 2.7 times of their body size. Females are relatively larger and heavier than males.

The plumage is mostly white, with black feather occurring on the wings and tail. However, their plumage tends to appear brownish or rusty as they feed on the ground, accumulating dust, mud, or iron from the soil. The facial skin is yellow and bare down to the throat. The long, slender bill is also yellow, with a black tip. The wings as pointed while the tail is wedge-shaped. Legs have a pinkish tone. Both sexes look similar. Juveniles have blackish or brownish patches, and will only reach adult plumage only after about five years.

Where can they be spotted?

Egyptian Vultures can be found in Europe, North Africa, Asia, and India, flying between resident and breeding locations. They are now extinct in much of its South Africa range, such as in Angola, South Africa, DR Congo, Malawi, and Zambia. Few pairs may still exist, or also possibly extinct, in Namibia and Botswana.

These birds various arid open areas, such as desert, steppe, pastures, crop fields, but prefers rocky sites and cliffs as nesting sites. They can also be found near human settlements, such as in towns, fishing ports, slaughterhouses, and rubbish dumps.

Interesting Facts You Should Know About the Egyptian Vulture

Egyptian Vultures are opportunistic feeders, though, their diet is varied. They feed mainly on carrion and consume small mammals, reptiles, fish, and young birds. These birds can fly approximately 80 kilometers daily in search of food items.

Given their smaller built, these birds have to wait for other bigger birds or predators to finish eating before taking their place. Their thinner beak is suitable for picking smaller leftover flesh on carcasses. A unique feeding behavior observed on European Vultures is the use of pebbles or stones as a hammer, tossing them to break the eggs of other birds.

Egyptian Vultures are monogamous birds, traveling between breeding periods with their pair. Both sexes construct a large nest, in which they will reuse and repair throughout different breeding seasons. Nest materials may include twigs, wool, hair, rags, and fur.

Courtship antics include talon grappling between the pair while swooping aerial displays happen during the breeding period. The breeding season may differ depending on their range but usually takes place from March to May.

The female Egyptian Vulture lays two eggs, which both parents will incubate for about 39 to 45 days. Broods will fledge about 70 to 85 days after hatching but will remain within their parents’ range until the next breeding season.

While Egyptian Vultures play a key role in recycling and removing organic waste in the ecosystem, their number today is decreasing. Significant threats to the Egyptian Vultures’ population includes direct poisoning, electrocution, human disturbance, and hunting. Overall, the species is currently evaluated as Endangered (EN) under the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.



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Etosha National Park

Skeleton Coast

Egyptian Vulture