Himalayan griffon vulture
|Himalayan Griffon Vulture|
|Population||66,000-334,000 (2014 est.)|
|Conservation status||Near threatened|
The Himalayan griffon vulture (Gyps himalayensis) is a bird of prey from the subfamily of the Old World vultures, Aegypiinae.
The Himalayan griffon vulture is characterized by the white, bald head, the white neck ruffle, the yellowish beak, very wide wings and a short tail. Among the largest of Old World vultures, it is even larger than the similar griffon vulture (Gyps fulvus) and weighs about 13-28 pounds, with a wingspan is 8.4 to 10.2 ft. The whitish body contrasts with the dark flight feathers.
The Himalayan griffon vulture is common in the mountains of Central Asia. It comes from North Pakistan and North India via southern Tibet and Nepal to Bhutan, northern Assam and Central China. To the north-east, he crosses the Pamir Mountains to the Tianshan and possibly the Altai and Tarbagatai mountains. The species usually lives above 3,600 feet and reaches altitudes of more than 12,000 feet above sea level.
The Himalayan griffon vulture feeds on carrion, which he searches for in flight. While eating it aggressively competes against other vultures, but will wait on the side in the presence of wolves or other predators, as well as the larger Eurasian black vulture. In northern India, Himalayan griffon vultures can be observed along with griffon vultures and Indian vultures (Gyps indicus) on the same carcass.
Like the griffon vulture, the Himalayan begins breeding early in the year. The only egg is sometimes laid in December, since both species inhabit relatively northern latitudes and the time for the chick rearing is limited by the early winter break. Depending on the climate of the inhabited area, the egg laying can take place later, but at the latest by May. Himalayan griffon vultures breed in small colonies on rock cliffs from 3,600 to 12,700 feet in elevation. The nests grow in size over time, and either come from other birds of prey or are themselves newly created. After hatching the young vulture is cared for from six and eight months until it leaves the nest.
As late as 2012 Himalayan griffon vultures were considered quite common, with the ICUN listing them as "least concern". Though they are still common today, the species has been listed as "near threatened"; with that upgrade comes a belief that the species is estimated to go through a rapid decline of some 25-29% in numbers over three generations, the major factor being diclofenac and similar anti-biotic drugs currently used in livestock. The drug causes kidney and renal failure in Gyps vultures, and is 100% fatal when ingested. Where the drugs have been banned, such as in Nepal and southeast Asia, the birds have shown small recovery, but some populations make migrations to countries where the drugs have not been banned, putting the birds at risk.