Cinereous vulture

(Aegypius monachus)


Cinereous vulture IUCN NEAR THREATENED (NT)


Facts about this animal

The Cinereous vulture is the largest bird of prey of the Old World, and is only slightly smaller than the Andean condor. It has a length of 110-120 cm, a wingspan of 250-300 cm and a body-weight of up to 14 kg. The wings are long and broad with parallel edges, prominently indented trailing edge and with 7 deeply splayed fingers at tip. The tail is short and wedge-shaped. The plumage is dark brown with a fluffy ruff and bluish neck. In adults, the head is bare and buffy in colour with a blackish throat and dark markings around the eye, giving it a menacing skull like appearance. The very powerful bill is horn coloured, and the cere is pale blue. Juveniles have a blackish face, black bill and pink cere; and often a fluffy tuft on the back of the head.

The cinereous vulture breeds mostly in high mountains and large forests, in loose colonies or solitarily. Usually it builds a huge nest in a tree, where it lays one egg. Laying usually starts at the beginning of February and finishes at the end of April. Incubation lasts 50–54 days with both, male and female, participating. The chick usually spends more than 100 days in the nest and remains with the adults 2–3 months after fledging before moving away.

Cinereous vultures feed on medium to large carcasses, only rarely taking live prey, but also insects, tortoises and lizards appear in the diet.

Did you know?
that the cinerous vulture traditionally was called black vulture? Because the name "black vulture" is used also for the species Coragyps atratus of the Americas, Torgos tracheliotus of Africa, which is also called lappet-faced vulture, and Sarcogyps calvus of South Asia, also known as red-headed vulture, the name "cinereous" is now increasingly used. To complicate the situation even more, the cinereous vulture has even a third English vernacular name: Monk's vulture, which corresponds tom the German "Mönchsgeier" or the French "vautour moine".


Class AVES
Name (Scientific) Aegypius monachus
Name (English) Cinereous vulture
Name (French) Vautour moine
Name (German) Mönchsgeier
Name (Spanish) Buitre negro
Local names Greek: Maurógypas
Portuguese: Abutre-preto
CITES Status Appendix II
CMS Status Appendix II (as Accipitridae spp.)



Photo Copyright by
Valerie Abbott



Range Africa: Morocco (?), Sudan Asia: Afghanistan, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, Hong Kong, India, Iran, Israel, Kazakhstan, Korea DPR, Korea Rep. Kyrgyzstan, Lao PDR, Lebanon, Malaysia, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tajikistan, Thailand, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Viet Nam. Europe: Albania(?), Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Croatia, France (re-introduced>), Georgia, Greece, Macedonia former Yug. Rep. (?), Montenegro, Portugal (?),Russian Federation, Serbia, Spain (Baleares), Turkey, Ukraine Breeding populations are discontinuous, but vagrants may be encountered in many other Euopean, Asian and North African countries.
Habitat Temperate forests and grasslands, cold semi-deserts and deserts and mediterranean-type vegetation.
Wild population The global population is declining. It is currently estimated to number 7,200-10,000 pairs, with 1,700-1,900 pairs in Europe and 5,500-8,000 pairs in Asia (2004) (Red List IUCN 2011)
Zoo population 198 birds reported to ISIS (200) with the majority being kept by European Zoos.

In the Zoo

Cinereous vulture


How this animal should be transported

Untrained birds travel better in completely dark boxes, with a carpeted floor and roof, with an upwards sliding door at one end and no perch. As a general rule, trained birds are easier to manage in boxes with a carpeted perch at the right height to give plenty of head and tail room, and with a hinged side opening door.

For air transport, Container Note 20 of the IATA Live Animals Regulations should be followed.


Find this animal on ZooLex


Photo Copyright by
Robert Lawton

Why do zoos keep this animal

Being the largest Old-World vulture, the cinereous vulture if educational interest. As a very impressive bird it is a good ambassador species for the increasingly disturbed Eurasian grasslands and their threatened fauna, e.g. the saiga antelopes, which used to be a main source of food for cinereous vultures before their populations collapsed.


European zoos are engaged in conservation breeding of the species and have made numerous birds available for reintroductions, which started in 1992 and proved to be successful. Zoos have also financially supported the reintroduction projects.