Indian Vulture

Indian Vulture

Kingdom
Phylum
Class
Family
Subfamily
Genus
SPECIES
Gyps indicus
Population size
30,000
WEIGHT
5.5-6.3 kg
LENGTH
81-103 cm
WINGSPAN
1.9–2.4 m

The Indian vulture is a medium-sized and bulky scavenger. Its body and covert feathers are pale, its flight feathers are darker. Its wings are broad and its tail feathers short. The head and neck are almost bald, and its bill is rather long. Females of this species are smaller than males.

Distribution

Indian vultures are native to India, Pakistan, and Nepal. They are usually found in savannah and other open habitats around villages, cities, and near cultivated areas.

Indian Vulture habitat map

Geography

Climate zones

Habits and Lifestyle

Indian vultures are social birds that often congregate in flocks. They are active during the day spending most of their time soaring over open areas looking for carcasses to gorge on. Indian vultures do not migrate but they may fly up to 100 km in a day when searching for food. They are generally silent, but when these vultures gather in groups around carcasses, they produce various grunts and hisses.

Seasonal behavior

Diet and Nutrition

Indian vultures are scavengers, feeding mostly from carcasses of dead animals.

Mating Habits

REPRODUCTION SEASON
November-March
INCUBATION PERIOD
45 days
BABY NAME
chick
BABY CARRYING
1 egg

The breeding season of Indian vultures takes place between November and March. They breed in colonies using mainly hilly crags; however, some populations may also nest in trees and high human-made structures. The female lays only one egg and both parents incubate it for about 45 days. The newly hatched chock is covered in down and remains in the nest within 3 months.

Population

Population threats

The Indian vulture has suffered a 97-99% population decrease due to poisoning caused by the veterinary drug diclofenac. This drug is toxic for vultures; it was given to working animals as it reduced joint pain and so kept them working for longer. The drug is believed to be swallowed by vultures with the flesh of dead cattle. Since then the use of this drug was banned and captive-breeding programs for Indian vultures have been started. The vultures are long-lived and slow in breeding, so the programs might take decades. It is hoped that captive-bred birds will be released to the wild when the environment is clear of diclofenac.

Population number

According to the IUCN Red List, the total population size of the Indian vulture 30,000 mature individuals. Currently, this species is classified as Critically Endangered (CR) on the IUCN Red List and its numbers today are decreasing.

Ecological niche

Vultures play a very important role in their native ecosystem by removing and processing carrion. The decline in the Indian vulture has drastically affected the conservation of the environment. By removing all carcasses, vultures had helped decrease pollution, disease spread and suppressed undesirable mammalian scavengers. In their absence, the population of feral dogs and rats, along with their zoonotic diseases, increases greatly.

Fun Facts for Kids

  • Vultures have several interesting behaviors; they hunch their bodies and tuck in their heads in the cold, and open their wings and stretch their necks in the heat. They also urinate on themselves as a means of cooling their bodies.
  • A group of vultures in flight is usually called a 'kettle', while the term 'committee' refers to a group of vultures resting on the ground or in trees. A group of vultures that are feeding is termed 'wake'.
  • Outside of the oceans, vultures are the only known obligate scavengers. They rarely attack healthy animals but may kill the wounded or sick.
  • Vultures gorge themselves when prey is abundant, until their crops bulge, and sit, sleepy or half torpid, to digest their food.
  • Vultures do not carry food to their young in their talons but disgorge it from their crops.
  • Populations of the Indian vulture that nest on cliffs do not reuse their nests. They destroy them. The chicks break down the nest gradually by pushing sticks off!

References

1. Indian Vulture on Wikipedia - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indian_vulture
2. Indian Vulture on The iUCN Red List site - https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/22729731/117875047

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