Neophron percnopterus, Photo: Michael Lahanas
Neophron percnopterus (*)
Neophron percnopterus (Linnaeus, 1758)
Systema Naturae ed.10 p.87
The Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus) is a small Old World vulture, found from southwestern Europe and northern Africa to southern Asia. It is the only living member of the genus Neophron. In Southern Asia this species is called the Scavenger Vulture.
There are three recognised subspecies of the Egyptian Vulture:
* N. p. percnopterus, the nominate subspecies, has the largest range, occurring in southern Europe, northern Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia and the north-west of the Indian subcontinent
The adult plumage is white, with some black feathers in the wings and tail. Due to its habits—stalking around carcasses on usually dusty ground to wait for its turn—the plumage dulls quickly, and birds before moult are beige rather than pure white. Also, individuals occasionally seem to "paint" themselves with soil containing iron oxide, as Lammergeiers do, turning their plumage a pinkish buff; hence the German name Schmutzgeier ("dirt-vulture"). Its facial skin is yellow, turning orange during nesting periods, and is devoid of feathers. The tail is diamond-shaped, so it is easily distinguished in flight. The shape of the tail trades off speed and for improved manoeuvrability.
The nominate subspecies has a yellow bill with a black tip, whereas the smaller Indian race has an all-yellow bill
The nestlings are dark brown and gradually become lighter until they reach adulthood at the age of five.
They are partial migrants, depending on the local climate. If an Egyptian Vulture can endure the winter, it usually will not migrate. The species is not well adapted for cold weather due to its small size (see Bergmann's Rule).
The Egyptian Vulture is declining in large parts of its range, often severely. In Europe and most of the Middle East, it is half as plentiful as it was about twenty years ago, and the populations in India and southwestern Africa have collapsed entirely. In the case of India, this apparently is attributable to the widespread use of the NSAID Diclofenac in veterinary medicine, which enters the food chain of the species; the drug is extremely poisonous to vultures. Consequently, this species was uplisted from Least Concern to Endangered status in the 2007 IUCN Red List.
1. ^ Ali & Ripley (1983)
* Ali, Salim & Sidney Dillon Ripley (1983): Handbook of the Birds of India and Pakistan, 2nd ed. vol.1, #186: p. 310. Oxford University Press, New Delhi.
Source: Wikispecies, Wikipedia: All text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License