Vulture in India 2021 with MAP | Vulture population in India

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Vulture in India were very common till the 1980s. During this period, the populations of the three resident Gyps species (Oriental White-backed Vulture, Long-billed Vulture, Slender-billed Vulture) in the country was estimated at 40 million individuals. The overall population however crashed drastically by over 90% during the mid-nineties. By 2007,99% of the three Gyps species had been wiped out.

As of today, according to the IUCN Red Data Book, Vulture in India are categorised into the following:

vultures in India

S. NoCategoryVulture Name
1Critically Endangered
1. Oriental White-backed Vulture
2. Long-billed Vulture
3. Slender-billed Vulture
4. Red-headed Vulture
2EndangeredEgyptian Vulture
3Near Threatened1. Himalayan Vulture
2. Cinereous Vulture
3. Bearded Vulture
4Least ConcernEurasian Griffon

Species of Vulture in India

There are nine species of Vultures in India which are as follow.

  • five belong to the genus Gyps:
    • Oriental White-backed Vulture (OWBV) Gyps bengalensis,
    • Long-billed Vulture (LBV) G. indicus,
    • Slender-billed Vulture (SBV) G. tenuirostris (all residents),
    • Himalayan Vulture (HV) Gyps himalayensis (largely wintering) and
    • Eurasian Griffon (EG) Gyps fulvus (strictly wintering).
  • Rest four are monotypic. These include
    • Red-headed Vulture (RHV) Sarcogyps calvus,
    • Egyptian Vulture (EV) Neophron percnopterus,
    • Bearded Vulture (BV) Gypaetus barbatus (all residents)
    • Cinereous Vulture (CV) Aegypius calvus (strictly wintering).
  • A sub-species of Egyptian Vulture Neophron percnopterus is largely spotted in winters in India.
Oriental White backed vulture

Oriental White backed vulture

Weight: 3.5-6 kg.

Wingspan: 205-220 cm.

Breeding: 1 egg, in trees, incubation about 55 days, chick fledges about 4 months.

Status: Critically endangered since 2002 and is also in Schedule-I of Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.

Smallest one among all Gyps Species

Vulture population in India map 2
Vulture population in India map 2
Long billed Vulture

Long billed Vulture

Weight: 5.5-6kg.

Wingspan: 205-229 cm.

Breeding: 1 egg on rock ledges, incubation about 55 days, chick fledges about 4 months.

Status: Critically endangered since 2002 and is also in Schedule-I of Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.

Known for flying long distance and at very high altitude

slender billed vulture

Slender Billed Vulture

Weight: 5.5-6 kg.

Wingspan: 205-229 cm.

Breeding: 1 egg, in trees, incubation about 55 days, chick fledges about 4 months.

Status: Critically endangered since 2002 and is also in Schedule-I of Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.

Vulture population in India map 1
Vulture population in India map 1
Himalayan Vulture

Himalayan Vulture

Weight: 8-12 kg.

Wingspan: 260-310 cm.

Breeding: Poorly known, 1 egg, on rock ledges, incubation about 50 days, chicks may fledge 4 to 5 months.

Status: Near threatened and is also in Schedule-IV of Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.

It is one of the largest and heaviest bird found in the Himalayas

eurasian griffon vulture

Eurasian Griffon vulture

Weight: 6-11 kg.

Wingspan: 240-280 cm.

Breeding: 1 egg, in rocks incubation about 50-58 days, chick fledges 110-130 days.

Status: Ofleast concern and is also in Schedule-IV of Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.

Create growling sound at the time of eating carcass

Red Headed Vulture

Red Headed Vulture

Weight: 3.6-5-4kg.

Wingspan: 218-229 cm.

Breeding: 1 egg, in tree nest, incubation about 50 days, chick fledges about 4 months.

Status: Critically endangered since 2006 and is also in Schedule-IV of Wildlife Protection Act, 1972

Incubation of eggs is carried out by female in night and by male in day

Egyptian Vulture

Egyptian Vulture

Weight: 1.6-2.2kg.

Wingspan: 155-170 cm.

Breeding: 1 or 2 eggs, in trees, incubation about 42-45 days, chicks fledge about 3 months.

Status: Endangered since 2006 and is also in Schedule-IV of Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.

They also feed on small animals and egg of other birds, breaking them by tossing a large pebble onto them. They use pebble as a hammer.

Bearded Vulture

Bearded Vulture

Weight: 4.5-7.1 kg.

Wingspan: 250-2820 cm.

Breeding: 1 or 2 eggs, in caves or rock ledges, incubation 53-58 days, chicks fledge 106-130 days.

Status: Near threatened and is also in Schedule-I of Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.

cinereous vulture

Cinereous Vulture

Weight: 7-12.5 kg.

Wingspan: 250-295001.

Breeding: 1 egg, either in trees or cliffs, incubation 54-56 days, chicks fledge 95-120 days.

Status: Near threatened and is also in Schedule-IV of Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.

Heaviest and largest among all raptors

Vulture population in India map 3
Vulture population in India map 3

Vulture population in India

S. No.SpeciesResident/ MigratoryConservationStatus ConservationEstimated Population in India
1BeardedResidentNear ThreatenedSchedule-INot available
2CinereousWinter visitorNear ThreatenedSchedule-IVNot available
3EgyptianResidentEndangeredSchedule-IVNot available
4EurasianWinter visitorLeast ConcernSchedule-IVNot available
5HimalayanWinter/residentNear ThreatenedSchedule-IVNot available
6Long-billedResidentCritically endangeredSchedule-126,500
7Red-headedResidentCritically endangeredSchedule-IVNot available
8Slender-billedResidentCritically endangeredSchedule-11,000
9Oriental White-backedResidentCritically endangeredSchedule-16,000

Population Decline of Vulture in India

There are various reasons for the decline of vultures. However, persecution by humans and poisoning by diclofenac appear in the list of almost all decreasing populations of vultures. The threats are briefly discussed below:

  • Diclofenac contamination

The main cause for the decline of the vulture population is a non-steroid anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), diclofenac. Vultures are exposed to diclofenac after feeding on the carcass of dead farm animals. It causes kidney failure in vultures and hence death. In Assam 99% of the mortality of Oriental. White-backed, slender-billed and long-billed vultures occurred due to diclofenac.

  • Habitat loss

The vulture populations are declining day by day due to habitat loss, food unavailability and electrocution. Cutting down trees for agriculture, urbanization and firewood purposes, a cause of habitat degradation is a threat to the nesting sites of vultures. Fire and grazing also decrease the safe roosting and nesting sites of vultures. The decrease in safer nesting sites, in turn, decreases their breeding success and increases the death rate.

  • Interference due to traffic and other animals

The breeding sites of vultures especially Gyps bengalensis are mostly located around the roads. Human activities and traffic on the roads is a cause of concern as vultures may feed on roads making them prone to accidents. Another cause that has been established is the interference of other animals like monkeys with vultures and their nestings.

  • Infectious diseases

Infectious diseases are another threat to vultures. Evidence favouring infectious disease emerged from post-mortem studies of 28 carcasses of Gyps bengalensis and Gyps indicus gathered from across India.

  • Low Food Availability

Dead animals are the primary source of food for different vulture species. Earlier the practice of throwing carcasses of animals in open was a dominant form of disposal but now such practice has almost vanished and dumping of the animal carcasses is preferred to prevent any disease spread. Hence a gradual decrease of available food in the form of carcasses poses a threat to vultures and hence a cause of vulture population crash.

  • Environmental Contaminants

It has been seen that environmental contaminants cause heavy mortality in raptor and vulture populations. Insecticides and pesticides contaminate the environment and their accumulation within the water bodies, in turn, serves as a potential contamination source. This may cause heavy losses to these birds due to bio-magnification.

Vulture Conservation in India

  • A conservation breeding programme for the three resident Gyps species of vultures was set up in 2004 to implement the recommendation of the Action Plan for Vulture Conservation 2006 (MoEF, Government of India 2006).
  • There are in all eight Vulture Conservation Breeding Centres (VCBC) established in the country. The first VCBC was set up in 2004 at Pinjore in Haryana by the Forest Department of Haryana and BNHS.
  • Subsequently, a centre was established at Rajabhatkhawa in the state of West Bengal in 2006 and another one at Rani in Assam in 2008.
  • Five centres were set up by the Central Zoo Authority in collaboration with the State Zoos at Van Vihar, Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh; Nandankanan Zoo, Bhubaneshwar, Odisha; Nehru Zoological Park, Hyderabad, Telangana; Muta Zoo, Ranchi, Jharkhand and Sakkarbagh Zoo, Junagadh, Gujarat.
  • Now the latest  Action Plan for Vulture Conservation 2020-2025 (APVC) is in action on the ground to save our vultures.

Action Plan for Vulture Conservation 2020-2025

Important features for the Action Plan for Vulture Conservation 2020-2025 (APVC) are:

1. Prevent the poisoning of the chief food of vultures, the cattle carcasses, due to veterinary NSAIDs. The aim is to ensure that the sale of veterinary NSAIDs is regulated and is distributed only on prescription. Also, ensure that the treatment of livestock is done under the supervision of qualified veterinarians.

2. Start the safety testing of available molecules of veterinary NSAIDs on the vultures. The new molecules should only be introduced in the market following a safety test on vultures.

3. The Drugs Controller General of India (DGCI) must constitute a mechanism that automatically removes a drug from veterinary use if it is found to be harmful and toxic to vultures. Such a mechanism would make sure that drugs other than diclofenac which are toxic to vultures as like aceclofenac and ketoprofen are banned from the market for veterinary use. 

4. There is a growing need to set up more Conservation Breeding Centres in India. As of now, there are only 8 Vulture Conservation Breeding Centres in different parts of the country. The primary aim of these centres is the breeding of vultures, but they also act as Vulture Conservation Centres.

  • The implementation of the Action Plan for Vulture Conservation 2020-2025 (APVC) rests with MoEFCC. However, for the conservation of vultures, there is very little that the MoEFCC can do on its own as the cause of the crash in vulture populations is the veterinary use of NSAIDs. The licensing and the distribution of the drugs is the responsibility of the DCGI of the MoH&FW, dispensing and administration is the responsibility of the Animal Husbandry Commissioner of MoAHDF.
  • So, the conservation of vulture in India is not possible without the active cooperation of MoH&FW and MoAHDF.
  • The Ministry of Power, Renewable Energy, Chemical and Fertilizer will also need to be involved to a lesser extent. So, the conservation of vultures is much more challenging than of any other wild species as it would require inter-ministry coordination.

INTERNATIONAL ACTION PLAN OF CONSERVATION for VULTURE IN INDIA

The Multi-Species Action Plan to Conserve African-Eurasian Vultures (Vulture MsAP):

The Vulture MsAP was developed by Conservation of Migratory Species (CMS) Raptors MoU and was adopted by CMS Parties at COP12, held in Manila, Philippines from October 23 to 28, 2017. The action plan covers all the nine species of vultures recorded from India.


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