Vulture Species Guide

Vulture species

Vultures are found across world in all continents except Australasia and Antarctica. Old World vultures in Africa, Asia and Europe belong to the family Accipitridae. While their appearance is similar, evidence from genetic studies and their morphology indicates that the New World Vultures of North and South America (e.g. Californian condor, Andean condor, king vulture, turkey vulture and yellow-headed vulture) are more closely related to storks than to Old World vultures. Convergent evolution has shaped their morphology and behaviour to closely parallel the Old World species, although in contrast to Old World vultures which primarily rely on sight for finding their food, New World vultures find prey through using sight and a highly developed sense of smell.

Gyps vultures

The most familiar and abundant species of vultures belong to the genus Gyps, which includes eight species that occur across Africa, Europe and Asia. Two species of Gyps are migratory, the Himalayan griffon vulture (G. himalayensis) and Eurasian griffon vultures (G. fulvus), whereas the other six species are resident, although they may still make large seasonal movements in response to food supplies and climatic conditions (e.g. during the monsoon in Asia). The three resident species found in Asia are the Oriental white-backed vulture (G. bengalensis), long-billed vulture (G. indicus) and slender-billed vulture (G. tenuirostris). The other three species of Gyps are all found in Africa and are the African white-backed (G. africanus), Rueppell's (G. rueppellii) and Cape griffon vulture (G. coprotheres). No Gyps species is completely geographically isolated from its congeners (see map to the right). Gyps vultures are obligate scavengers and perform an important ecological function by stripping the soft tissue from carcasses. Gyps vultures used to be widespread and abundant, accounting for the majority of vulture sightings in both Africa and Asia. Their abundance in India and Nepal, where Hindu religious customs restrict the consumption of meat, is explained by the role Gyps has in consuming cattle carcasses. In most parts of Africa, vultures primarily feed on dead wild ungulates. All Gyps species are wide-ranging in their foraging behaviour and juveniles disperse more widely than adults.

Other Old World vultures

Coming soon ...