Egyptian Vulture

Neophron percnopterus

Last updated: November 15, 2022
Verified by: AZ Animals Staff

They steal large ostrich eggs and use rocks and pebbles to crack the shells.

Egyptian Vulture Scientific Classification

Kingdom
Animalia
Phylum
Chordata
Class
Aves
Order
Accipitriformes
Family
Accipitridae
Genus
Neophron
Scientific Name
Neophron percnopterus

Read our Complete Guide to Classification of Animals.

Egyptian Vulture Conservation Status

Egyptian Vulture Locations

Egyptian Vulture Locations

Egyptian Vulture Facts

Prey
Carrion, small mammals, birds, and reptiles
Main Prey
Carrion
Name Of Young
Chicks
Group Behavior
  • Solitary/Pairs
Fun Fact
They steal large ostrich eggs and use rocks and pebbles to crack the shells.
Estimated Population Size
12,000 to 36,000
Biggest Threat
Poisoning, electrocution, and collisions
Most Distinctive Feature
Long, hooked bill
Distinctive Feature
Long neck feathers, pointed wings
Wingspan
4.9 to 5.1 feet
Incubation Period
42 to 47 days
Age Of Fledgling
90 to 110 days
Habitat
deserts, fields, and pastures
Predators
Red foxes, golden eagles, jackals, wolves, and eagle owls
Diet
Carnivore
Lifestyle
  • Diurnal
Type
Bird
Common Name
Egyptian vulture
Special Features
Hooked mandible
Number Of Species
3
Location
Africa, Asia, Europe
Average Clutch Size
2
Nesting Location
Cliff ledges, buildings, forks of large trees
Age of Molting
four to five years
Migratory
1

Egyptian Vulture Physical Characteristics

Color
  • Yellow
  • Black
  • White
Skin Type
Feathers
Lifespan
up to 37 years
Weight
4.2 to 5.3 pounds
Length
19 to 26 inches

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View all of the Egyptian Vulture images!



“They huddle together for warmth.”

Summary

The Egyptian vulture (Neophron percnopterus) is a small Old World vulture native to Africa, Southern Europe, and Southern Asia. It inhabits open, arid areas near humans, with plenty of food options. This bird is opportunistic, devouring anything from human feces to ostrich eggs. Discover all the interesting facts about this vulture, including where it lives, what else it eats, and how it behaves. 

5 Amazing Egyptian Vulture Facts

  • They frequent human garbage dumps and fishing ports, looking for an easy meal.
  • They use sticks to roll up wool for their nests.
  • They steal large ostrich eggs and use rocks and pebbles to crack the shells.
  • They are relatively silent vultures but occasionally make high-pitched hissing and screeching noises at their nest or near food.
  • This species is endangered due to many threats, such as poisoning and collisions. 

Where to Find the Egyptian Vulture

The Egyptian vulture lives in Africa, Asia, and Europe in over 65 countries, including India, Turkey, Saudia Arabia, Chad, Sudan, and Ethiopia. This species is migratory, breeding in North Africa, Southern Europe, and Asia and wintering at the southern edge of the Sahara. They inhabit arid open areas like deserts, fields, and pastures. But they also need to be near rocky areas for nesting. They prefer to live near humans and use garbage dumps, fishing ports, and slaughterhouses as food sources. Look for them soaring high in the sky, alone, in pairs, or on the ground around a carcass with mixed vulture species.

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Egyptian Vulture Nest

Their nests are untidy platforms made from twigs and lined with rags. They build them on cliff ledges, buildings, or a fork of a large tree. Researchers have observed them using sticks to roll up wool for their nests. Occasionally, they may take over old eagle nests.

Scientific Name

The Egyptian vulture (Neophron percnopterus) is from the Accipitridae family, encompassing small to large birds with strong, hooked bills and variable diets. It is the only species in the Neophron genus and represents the oldest branch within the evolutionary tree of vultures. Percnopterus is Greek for “black wings.” The Egyptian vulture has three recognized subspecies. 

Size, Appearance, & Behavior

Egyptian vulture
The Egyptian vulture (Neophron percnopterus) is a small Old World vulture native to Africa, Southern Europe, and Southern Asia. It inhabits open, arid areas near humans, with plenty of food options.

Erni/Shutterstock.com

The Egyptian vulture is a small Old World vulture, measuring 19 to 26 inches long and weighing 4.2 to 5.3 pounds, with a 4.9 to 5.1-foot wingspan. It has a long, slender bill with a hooked upper mandible. This species also has elongated nostril slits, long neck feathers that form a plume, a wedge-shaped tail, and pointed wings. Adults are white with black flight feathers, and wild birds appear brown from their iron-rich soil habitats. Their facial skin is yellow and unfeathered, and their bills are black. The sexes are indistinguishable in plumage, but the females are slightly larger. Young vultures are black or brown with black and white patches.

They are primarily solitary; you will often see these birds alone or in pairs. However, they roost in communal areas, which allows them to find food sources more efficiently. This species is relatively silent but may make high-pitched hissing noises at the nest or screeching noises at a carcass.

Migration Pattern and Timing

The Egyptian vulture is a long-distance migrant and Europe’s only migratory vulture. Their breeding range is from Southern Europe to Northern Africa to Western and Southern Asia. They migrate down to the southern edge of the Sahara, some reaching as far south as South Africa. They can cover over 300 miles in one day but prefer to avoid long stretches of open water, choosing to pass over islands and peninsulas. 

Diet

Egyptian vultures are carnivores and opportunistic predators.

What Does the Egyptian Vulture Eat?

They primarily eat carrion (dead animals) but will also consume small mammals, birds, and reptiles. They also eat mammal feces, including those of humans. This species will steal eggs from other birds and have been known to break large eggs from ostriches using jagged rocks and pebbles, which they hurl down on the egg until it cracks. They hunt by sight, soaring high in the sky and looking to the ground for a carcass in an open area. Often, they follow other vultures circling a meal. But will wait on the edge until the larger birds have eaten their fill.

Predators, Threats, and Conservation Status

The IUCN lists the Egyptian vulture as EN or “endangered.” This species qualifies for this severe status due to its ongoing and highly rapid population decline in almost all of its ranges, including India, Europe, and Africa. Its most serious threats include poisoning from the veterinary drug diclofenac, lead poisoning from ammunition, electrocution by power lines, collisions with wind turbines, reduced food availability, and habitat change.

What Eats the Egyptian Vulture?

These vultures have no known natural predators. However, their young are vulnerable to red foxes, golden eagles, jackals, wolves, and eagle owls. Adults will make a hissing or growling noise when angry or threatened, but they rarely drive away predators.

Reproduction, Young, and Molting

Egyptian vultures form monogamous pair bonds, which they may maintain for more than one season as they return to the same nesting site. Their breeding season begins in the spring and consists of courting behavior, such as pairs performing aerial acrobatics. Some females may choose two male partners, and all three will assist in caring for their young. Females lay two brick red eggs, and both sexes take turns incubating for 42 to 47 days. The young fledge the nest 90 to 110 days after hatching but remain dependent on their parents for another month. They receive their full adult plumage by four or five years and can live up to 37 years old.

Population

The global Egyptian vulture population is estimated to number 12,00 to 36,000 mature individuals. And in Europe, the breeding population is 3,000 to 4,500 pairs. This species is declining in virtually all parts of its range from many different threats. The global rate of decline is between 50 and 79%, and future rates of decline are suspected to be of a similar magnitude due to ongoing threats.

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About the Author

Niccoy is a professional writer and content creator focusing on nature, wildlife, food, and travel. She graduated Kappa Beta Delta from Florida State College with a business degree before realizing writing was her true passion. She lives in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains and enjoys hiking, reading, and cooking!

Egyptian Vulture FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Why are Egyptian vultures endangered?

Its most serious threats include poisoning from the veterinary drug diclofenac, lead poisoning from ammunition, electrocution by power lines, collisions with wind turbines, reduced food availability, and habitat change.

Where do Egyptian vultures live?

The Egyptian vulture lives in Africa, Asia, and Europe in over 65 countries, including India, Turkey, Saudia Arabia, Chad, Sudan, and Ethiopia.

How big are Egyptian vultures?

The Egyptian vulture is a small Old World vulture, measuring 19 to 26 inches long and weighing 4.2 to 5.3 pounds, with a 4.9 to 5.1-foot wingspan.

What do Egyptian vultures eat?

They primarily eat carrion (dead animals) but will also consume small mammals, birds, and reptiles.

What are Egyptian vultures predators?

These vultures have no known natural predators. However, their young are vulnerable to red foxes, golden eagles, jackals, wolves, and eagle owls.

Do Egyptian vultures migrate?

The Egyptian vulture is a long-distance migrant and Europe’s only migratory vulture. Their breeding range is from Southern Europe to Northern Africa to Western and Southern Asia. They migrate down to the southern edge of the Sahara, some reaching as far south as South Africa.

What sounds do Egyptian vultures make?

This species is relatively silent but may make high-pitched hissing noises at the nest or screeching noises at a carcass.

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.

Sources
  1. Vibhu Prakash, Bombay Natural History Society,, Available here: https://zslpublications.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1469-1795.2006.00041.x
  2. Bird Life International, Available here: https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/22695180/205187871

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