| White-backed vulture, Gyps africanus, (r)|
Rüppell's griffon vulture, Gyps rueppellii (l)
The Old World vultures range in size from 37 to 44 inches in length, with wingspans up to 8.9 feet. They possess a head and neck devoid of feathers, replaced instead with a light, thin down, enabling them to reach well inside animal carcasses without matting their feathers with blood. They have weak feet, adapted for walking rather than killing prey. Their wings are large and broad, which they use for effortless soaring. Eyesight is powerful in all species, and they can locate a carcass up to a mile away.
Old World vultures are found generally in the tropics, with a few species ranging into temperate zones. They are open-country birds, spending hours aloft soaring on thermal updrafts to locate a dead or dying animal; when found a large flock will quickly gather, often from miles away. A social order takes place on the carcass, with the birds bearing the largest size feeding first, followed by the smaller birds. All give way, however, to any mammal scavenger who comes upon the carcass, such as hyenas and jackals.
Old World vultures build nests, usually large, and sometimes in large colonies, laying a single egg.
- Subfamily Aegypiinae
- Genus Aegypius
- Eurasian black vulture, Aegypius monachus
- Genus Gyps
- Cape griffon vulture, Gyps coprotheres
- Griffon vulture, Gyps fulvus
- Himalayan griffon vulture, Gyps himalayensis
- Long-billed vulture, Gyps indicus
- Rüppell's vulture, Gyps rueppelli
- Slender-billed vulture, Gyps tenuirostris
- White-backed vulture, Gyps africanus
- Indian white-rumped vulture, Gyps bengalensis
- Genus Necrosyrtes
- Hooded vulture, Necrosyrtes monachus
- Genus Sarcogyps
- Red-headed vulture, Sarcogyps calvus
- Genus Torgos
- Lappet-faced vulture, Torgos tracheliotus
- Genus Trigonoceps
- White-headed vulture, Trigonoceps occipitalis
Several species of African vultures are classified as vulnerable or endangered by the ICUN, with a large part of the blame due to the poisoning of animal carcasses that were originally meant to control lion, hyena, or other predation on livestock. Diclofenac, for example, an anti-inflammatory drug used to treat cattle, nearly wiped out three Asian species. In a more ominous turn, poachers have recognized the fact that circling vultures will alert game wardens to the their presence, and will lace the carcasses with lethal amounts of poison such as strychnine, cyanide, or concentrated insectacides in a deliberate mass-killing. In June, 2019 a estimated 547 vultures were found dead near three elephant carcasses in Botswana, with well over 400 of them the critically-endangered white-backed vulture (Gyps africanus).