Eurasian black vulture
|Eurasian Black Vulture|
|Conservation status||Near threatened|
The Eurasian black vulture (Aegypius monachus) is a bird of prey from the subfamily of Old World vultures, Aegypiinae.
The Eurasian black vulture is the largest flying bird of prey in the Old World, with only the two species of New World condors being larger. It has a length of 3 feet 3 inches to 3 feet 11 inches, a body weight of 14 to 25 pounds, and a wingspan of 8 feet 2 inches to 10 feet 2 inches. Females are larger than males. It has a single-colored dark brown plumage, which looks black from afar. Head and neck not naked, but covered in a fine, black-colored down. The skin of both is a bluish-pink in color. The wings are broad, the tail is often slightly wedge-shaped.
Eurasian black vultures are found from Spain to the Balearic Islands, the Balkans, Western Asia and North India to southern Siberia, northern China and Mongolia. Winter range is further south, such as in Sudan, the Middle East, northwest India, Pakistan and Korea. In Southern Europe, the adult birds do not migrate during the winter; in Asia the northern populations will migrate to more southerly regions in the cold season.
The habitat of the Eurasian black vulture is above all forested hills and mountains, but for food searches it also frequently flies over open terrain.
The Eurasian black vulture feeds primarily on the carrion of large and medium-sized mammals. Occasionally, especially in the summer, when there is less carrion, it will kill small animals such as reptiles, hares, and rodents. At the carcass it is usually the dominant species of vulture.
According to the IUCN, the Eurasian black vulture is listed as near-threatened. In Europe it has become rare in many parts of its original distribution area or has already disappeared completely; it was once found in Morocco, Portugal, Italy, the former Yugoslavia, Albania, Romania, Moldova and Israel. Some work is being done at conservation, with the intent to intensify breeding, increase populations in their current range, and reintroduce them in their former range. In Spain the number of birds increased from 200 breeding pairs in 1970 to almost 1000 in 1992; the Spanish island of Mallorca has a nature conservation organization which catches young vultures to move them out to the south of France or Macedonia. In addition there are small remaining stocks of the vulture in Greece (about 16 pairs), Bulgaria (1 pair) on the Crimean peninsula (3-6 couples) and in European Russia (about 50 couples).
Little is known about the stocks in Asia, and all vulture species in addition to the Eurasian black vulture have shown a large decline in numbers, with the prime suspect a disease which has decimated herds of saiga antelope (Saiga tartarica), as well as a reduction in numbers of other wild ungulates and domestic livestock. In the Asian part of the Russia there are probably little more than 1000 pairs. The IUCN estimates the total stock of 7,800-10,500 pairs.