Neophron percnopterus 

Scope: Global

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Aves Accipitriformes Accipitridae

Scientific Name: Neophron percnopterus
Species Authority: (Linnaeus, 1758)
Regional Assessments:
Common Name(s):
English Egyptian Vulture, Egyptian Eagle
French Vautour percnoptère
Spanish Alimoche común
Taxonomic Source(s): del Hoyo, J., Collar, N.J., Christie, D.A., Elliott, A. and Fishpool, L.D.C. 2014. HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World. Lynx Edicions BirdLife International.
Identification information: 55-65 cm. Wingspan 155-170 cm. Medium-large. Characteristic flight silhouette with broad, well-fingered wings and a wedge-shaped tail. Yellow face and base to the bill with a black tip. Plumage is pale grey with some buff on the head and neck. Primaries and secondaries are black showing contrast with underwing-coverts below and unique white centres above. Juveniles are largely dark brown with contrasting area of pale buff.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Endangered A2bcde+3bcde+4bcde ver 3.1
Year Published: 2015
Date Assessed: 2014-07-24
Assessor(s): BirdLife International
Reviewer(s): Butchart, S.
Contributor(s): Abdusalyamov, I., Angelov, I., Aspinall, S., Atienza, J., Baral, H., Barlow, C., Barov, B., Belyalova, L., Bowden, C., Brunner, A., Buketov, M., Bukreev, S., Bustamov, E., Camina, A., Cortes, J., Cuthbert, R., Efimenko, N., Eriksen, J., Fundukchiev, S., Galushin, V., Grande, J., Grubac, B., Hatzofe, O., Isfendiyaroglu, S., Kashkarov, R., Katzner, T., Keuzberg-Makhina, E., Khan, A., Khrokov, V., Kolbintzev, V., Koshkin, A., Kovshar, A., Lanovenko, E., Madroño, A., Matekova, G., Mischenko, A., Mitropolskyi, M., Mitropolskyi, O., Monteiro, A., Mulholland, G., Petkov, N., Pomeroy, D., Porter, R., Simmons, R., Sklyarenko, S., Soldatova, N., Stoynov, E., Subramanya, S., Tewes, E., Thiollay, J., Velevski, M., Wolstencroft, J., Cortés-Avizanda, A. & Rahmani, A.
Facilitator/Compiler(s): Bird, J., Butchart, S., Derhé, M., Pople, R., Taylor, J. & Symes, A.
This long-lived species qualifies as Endangered owing to a recent and extremely rapid population decline in India (presumably resulting from poisoning by the veterinary drug Diclofenac) combined with severe long-term declines in Europe (>50% over the last three generations [42 years]) and West Africa, plus ongoing declines through much of the rest of its African range.

Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:Neophron percnopterus occupies a large range with isolated resident populations in the Cape Verde and Canary Islands in the west, through Morocco and parts of West Africa (Ferguson-Lees et al. 2001). A small resident population persists in Angola and Namibia. The bulk of the resident population occurs in Ethiopia and East Africa, Arabia and the Indian Subcontinent,while Saharan and Sahelian parts of Africa in Algeria, Niger, northernmost Cameroon, Chad and northern Sudan also hold significant but presumably smaller populations (I. Angelov in litt. 2012). Migratory birds breed in Northernmost Africa (Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Northern Egypt), southern Europe, from Spain in the west, through the Mediterranean, Turkey, the Caucasus and central Asia to Northern Iran, Pakistan, northern India and Nepal. These birds winter within the resident range, and in addition throughout the Sahel region of Africa. Global population estimates for the species are crude, but combining figures of 3,300-5,050 pairs in Europe (Iñigo et al. 2008), <2,000 pairs in central Asia, just a few thousand pairs now in the Indian Subcontinent, perhaps 1,000 pairs in the Middle East, and perhaps 1,000-2,000 pairs in Africa (Thiollay 1989, I. Angelov in litt. 2012) gives a rough total of around 21,900-30,000 individuals. The European population has declined by over 50% in the last three generations (BirdLife International 2004). In Spain, which with at least 1,300 pairs may support as much as 40% of the European breeding population, the number of territories declined by at least 25% between 1987-2000 (i.e. equating to a decline of >50% over three generations) (Donázar 2004, Del Moral 2009), likely due to high mortality rates (Cortés-Avizanda et al. 2009). Similar declines are reported from the Middle East (S. Aspinall in litt. 2005), e.g. 50-75% in Israel, however in Oman the population appears stable (J. Eriksen in litt. 2005), although this may be more a reflection of count methods rather than genuine stability in the population. Around 1,700 birds are resident in a stable population on the island of Socotra (Porter and Suleiman in prep.). The resident populations within Africa also appear to have declined, including those in Ethiopia and Djibouti (G. Mulholland in litt. 2006), and Angola and Namibia (where just 10 pairs remain) (R. Simmons in litt. 2006). Across much of Africa residents are outnumbered by migrant European and probably Asian breeders (J. M. Thiollay in litt. 2006, I. Angelov in litt. 2012). Most critically, the species has undergone a catastrophic decline (>35% per year) since 1999 in India, where numbers detected on road transects declined by 68% between 2000 and 2003 (Cuthbert et al. 2006), while on the Balkans a decline of nearly 50% was noted between 2003-2011 (I. Angelov in litt. 2012).

Countries occurrence:
Afghanistan; Albania; Algeria; Andorra; Angola (Angola); Armenia (Armenia); Azerbaijan; Benin; Bosnia and Herzegovina; Bulgaria; Burkina Faso; Cameroon; Cape Verde; Central African Republic; Chad; Croatia; Cyprus; Djibouti; Egypt; Eritrea; Ethiopia; France; Georgia; Ghana; Gibraltar; Greece; Guinea; India; Iran, Islamic Republic of; Iraq; Israel; Italy; Jordan; Kazakhstan; Kenya; Kuwait; Kyrgyzstan; Lebanon; Libya; Macedonia, the former Yugoslav Republic of; Mali; Malta; Mauritania; Moldova; Montenegro; Morocco; Namibia; Nepal; Niger; Nigeria; Oman; Pakistan; Palestinian Territory, Occupied; Portugal; Romania; Russian Federation; Saudi Arabia; Senegal; Serbia (Serbia); Somalia; South Sudan; Spain (Canary Is.); Sudan; Syrian Arab Republic; Tajikistan; Tanzania, United Republic of; Togo; Tunisia; Turkey; Turkmenistan; Ukraine; United Arab Emirates; Uzbekistan; Western Sahara; Yemen
Regionally extinct:
South Africa
Austria; Bangladesh; Belgium; Botswana; Congo, The Democratic Republic of the; Czech Republic; Denmark; Estonia; Finland; Gambia; Hungary; Lesotho; Mongolia; Mozambique; Myanmar; Norway; Poland; Qatar; Slovakia; Slovenia; Sri Lanka; Svalbard and Jan Mayen; Sweden; Switzerland; United Kingdom; Zimbabwe
Present - origin uncertain:
China; Côte d'Ivoire; Guinea-Bissau; Uganda
Additional data:
Continuing decline in area of occupancy (AOO):Yes
Extreme fluctuations in area of occupancy (AOO):NoEstimated extent of occurrence (EOO) - km2:14800000
Continuing decline in extent of occurrence (EOO):UnknownExtreme fluctuations in extent of occurrence (EOO):No
Number of Locations:11-100Continuing decline in number of locations:Yes
Extreme fluctuations in the number of locations:No
Upper elevation limit (metres):4500
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:In Europe, the breeding population is estimated to number 3,300-5,050 breeding pairs, equating to 9,900-15,150 individuals. Europe forms 25-49% of the global range, so a very preliminary estimate of the global population size is 20,000-61,000 individuals, roughly equivalent to 13,000-41,000 mature individuals, although further validation of this estimate is needed.

Trend Justification:  The species declining in virtually all parts of its range, apparently for a number of different reasons. In India, it has declined by >90% in the last decade; European populations have declined by >50% over the last three generations, and West, East and southern African populations also appear to have declined significantly, as do Arabian populations (Jennings 2010).
Current Population Trend:Decreasing
Additional data:
Number of mature individuals:13000-41000Continuing decline of mature individuals:Yes
Extreme fluctuations:NoPopulation severely fragmented:No
No. of subpopulations:2-100Continuing decline in subpopulations:Yes
Extreme fluctuations in subpopulations:NoAll individuals in one subpopulation:No
No. of individuals in largest subpopulation:1-89

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:Typically nests on ledges or in caves on cliffs (Sarà and Di Vittorio 2003), crags and rocky outcrops, but occasionally also in large trees, buildings (mainly in India), electricity pylons (Naoroji 2006) and exceptionally on the ground (Gangoso and Palacios 2005). Forages in lowland and montane regions over open, often arid, country. Also scavenges at human settlements. Broad diet including carrion, tortoises, organic waste, insects, young vertebrates, eggs and even faeces. Usually solitary, but will congregate at feeding sites, such as rubbish tips, or vulture restaurants (i.e. supplementary feeding stations), and forms roosts of non-breeding birds (Ceballos & Donázar 1990). Performs an energetic display flight with mate. Several resident island populations show genetic isolation. Northern breeders conduct long-distance intercontinental migrations, flying over land and often utilising the narrowest part of the Strait of Gibraltar on their way to Africa (García-Ripollés et al. 2010). The species exhibits high site fidelity, particularly in males (Elorriaga et al. 2009; García-Ripollés et al. 2010).

Systems:Terrestrial; Freshwater
Continuing decline in area, extent and/or quality of habitat:Yes
Generation Length (years):14
Movement patterns:Full Migrant
Congregatory:Congregatory (and dispersive)

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): This species faces a number of threats across its range. Disturbance, lead poisoning (from gun shot), direct poisoning, electrocution (by powerlines), collisions with wind turbines, reduced food availability and habitat change are currently impacting upon European populations (Donázar et al. 2002; N. Petkov in litt. 2005; Kurtev et al. 2008; Angelov et al. in prep. 2011; Zuberogoitia et al. 2008; Carrete et al. 2009; Sara et al. 2009; Dzhamirzoev and Bukreev 2009). Illegal poisoning against carnivores seems to be the main threat operating on the breeding grounds in Spain (Hernandez and Margalida 2009) and the Balkans (I. Angelov in. litt. 2012). Declines in parts of Africa are likely to have been driven by loss of wild ungulate populations and, in some areas, overgrazing by livestock (Mundy et al. 1992). Within the European Union, regulations introduced in 2002, controlling the disposal of animal carcasses, greatly reduced food availability, notably through the closure of traditional "muladares" in Spain and Portugal (Donázar 2004; Lemus et al. 2008; J. C. Atienza in litt. 2007, Donázar et al. 2009, Donázar et al. 2010a, Cortés-Avizanda et al. 2010,Cortés-Avizanda 2011); however, recently passed regulations will permit the operation of feeding stations for scavengers (A. Brunner in litt. 2010). Poisoning is a threat to the species, often through the use of poison baits targeted at terrestrial predators (Carrete et al. 2007, Carrete et al. 2009, Cortés-Avizanda et al. 2009), and through the consumption of inappropriately disposed poisoned animals. Recent analyses from many countries such as Spain (Lemus et al. 2008) and Bulgaria (Angelov 2009) have highlighted high levels of contamination of Egyptian Vultures leading to increased mortality. Antiobiotic residues present in the carcasses of intensively-farmed livestock may increase the susceptibility of nestlings to disease (Lemus et al. 2008) (e.g. avian pox has been reported as a cause of mortality in Bulgaria [Kurtev et al. 2008]). 
It appears that Diclofenac, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) often used for livestock, and which is fatal to Gyps spp. when ingested at livestock carcasses (BirdLife International news [] 2007), is driving the recent rapid declines in India (Cuthbert et al. 2006, A. Rahmani in litt. 2012). NSAIDs are reportedly toxic to raptors, storks, cranes and owls, suggesting that vultures of other genera could be susceptible to its effects (BirdLife International news [] 2007). It seems plausible that this species previously had less exposure to the toxin owing to competitive exclusion from carcasses by Gyps spp. vultures (Cuthbert et al. 2006). In 2007, Diclofenac was found to be on sale at a veterinary practice in Tanzania (BirdLife International news [] 2007). In addition, it was reported that in Tanzania, a Brazilian manufacturer has been aggressively marketing the drug for veterinary purposes (C. Bowden in litt. 2007) and exporting it to 15 African countries (BirdLife International news [] 2007). Mortality at power lines has been found to be particularly common on the Canary Islands (Donazar et al. 2002, Donazar et al. 2007a) and  potentially risky in other regions of Spain (Donazar et al. 2007b, 2010b) and in Africa (Nikolaus 1984, 2006), with 17 individuals found killed by electrocution in Port Sudan, over 10 days in  2010 (I. Angelov in litt. 2010), indicating a potentially serious problem that has persisted for decades and will continue to contribute to Egyptian Vulture population declines. In Morocco at least, the species is taken for use in traditional medicine. Competition for suitable nest sites with Griffon Vulture may reduce breeding success in the short-term (Kurtev et al. 2008).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Conservation Actions Underway
Occurs within a number of protected areas across its range. Monitoring programmes, supplementary feeding (Cortés-Avizanda et al. 2010) and campaigns against illegal use of poisons, including awareness-raising, are in place for a number of national populations. The veterinary drug Diclofenac has now been banned by the Indian government. In 2007, a survey began to establish the extent of Diclofenac use for veterinary purposes in Tanzania (BirdLife International news [] 2007). An International species action plan for the species was published in 2008 (Iñigo et al. 2008). National species action plans are in place in France, Bulgaria and Italy, and the species is included in the Balkan Vulture Action Plan (BVAP). Efforts are being taken to release captive-bred individuals in parts of Italy. In Spain, France, Italy, Bulgaria and Macedonia birds have been fitted with satellite-tags to study juvenile dispersion, migratory movements and wintering areas (e.g. García-Ripollés et al. 2010). Nest guarding schemes for pairs that are most threatened by poachers have been implemented in Italy and Bulgaria, where very small populations survive. Expeditions to study the limiting factors in the wintering areas and along the migration flyway have taken place together with local organizations in Mauritania, Senegal, Ethiopia, Sudan and Turkey.

Conservation Actions Proposed
Start and maintain intensive cooperation with local key stake-holders to ensure poison- and poaching-free zones at sites with high densities or congregations of the species throughout the breeding, migration and wintering range, alongside similar efforts for other threatened species. Build capacity in countries along the migration flyways and in the wintering areas. Protect nest sites where persecution is a problem. Research the causes and extent of current declines across the species's range. Insulate dangerous electricity pylons in areas where high mortality is recorded. Coordinate monitoring to assess trends throughout the range. Relax the European Union animal hygiene regulations in relation to necrophagous birds. Establish supplementary feeding sites where appropriate, especially at sites where congregations of non-breeders can be supported. Raise awareness amongst pastoralists in Africa of the dangers of using Diclofenac for livestock (BirdLife International news [] 2007). Effectively reduce risks of poisoning through strict enforcement of poison-bait ban and education. Lobby for the banning of Diclofenac for veterinary purposes throughout the species's range, and support the enforcement of this ban where it has been adopted. Where applicable, establish the impact of wind turbines, and lobby for effective impact assessments to be carried out prior to their construction. Where appropriate, reduce disturbance by guarding nests.Where appropriate, guard nests to reduce disturbance. Confiscate illegally kept live birds and use them for the purposes of captive breeding and future restocking and reintroduction programs. In key areas of the species range, implement long term and large-scale education and community involvement program.

Citation: BirdLife International. 2015. Neophron percnopterus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2015: e.T22695180A85062680. . Downloaded on 04 December 2016.
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