The red-headed vulture (Sarcogyps calvus), also known as the Asian
king vulture, Indian black vulture or Pondicherry vulture, is an
Old World vulture
Old World vulture mainly found in the Indian subcontinent, with small
disjunct populations in some parts of Southeast Asia.
2 Taxonomy and systematics
3 Distribution and habitat
4 Conservation status
6 External links
It is a medium-sized vulture of 76 to 86 cm (30 to 34 in) in
length, weighing 3.5–6.3 kg (7.7–13.9 lb) and having a
wingspan of about 1.99–2.6 m (6.5–8.5 ft). It has
a prominent naked head: deep-red to orange in the adult, paler red in
the juvenile. It has a black body with pale grey band at the base of
the flight feathers. The sexes differ in colour of the iris: males
have a paler, whitish iris, whilst in females it is dark brown.
Red headed vulture female at Ranthambore
Taxonomy and systematics
This is a species of
Old World vulture
Old World vulture found in the Indian
subcontinent. It has no subspecies.
Distribution and habitat
This gaudy-faced vulture was historically abundant, range widely
across the Indian subcontinent, and also eastwards to south-central
and south-eastern Asia, extending from
India to Singapore. Today the
range of the red-headed vulture is localized primarily to northern
India. It is usually in open country and in cultivated and semi-desert
areas. It is also found in deciduous forests and foothills and river
valleys. It is usually found up to an altitude of 3000m from sea
At Berlin Zoo
Indian vulture crisis
The red-headed vulture used to be declining, but only slowly; in 2004
the species was uplisted to
Near Threatened from
Least Concern by the
IUCN. The widespread use of the
Diclofenac in veterinary
India has caused its population to collapse in recent
Diclofenac is a compound now known to be extremely
poisonous to vultures. The red-headed vulture population has
essentially halved every other year since the late 1990s, and what
once was a plentiful species numbering in the hundreds of thousands
has come dangerously close to extinction in less than two decades.
Consequently, it was uplisted to Critically Endangered in the 2007
IUCN Red List.
Several NSAIDs have been found to be harmful to scavenging birds.
Diclofenac, carprofen, flunixin, ibuprofen and phenylbutazone were
associated with mortality.
Meloxicam has thus far been found to be
"Vulture-Safe" and its use in veterinary treatment of livestock is
^ a b
BirdLife International (2013). "Sarcogyps calvus".
IUCN Red List
of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for
Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013.
^ Ali, S. (1993). The Book of Indian Birds. Bombay: Bombay Natural
History Society. ISBN 0-19-563731-3.
^ WWF- Red-headed
^ Raptors of the World by Ferguson-Lees, Christie, Franklin, Mead
& Burton. Houghton Mifflin (2001), ISBN 0-618-12762-3
^ Naoroji, Rishad (2006). Birds of Prey of the Indian subcontinent.
^ Ferguson-Lees, James; David A. Christie (2001-09-17). Raptors of the
world. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. pp. 443–444.
^ Cuthbert, Richard; et al. "NSAIDs and scavenging birds: potential
impacts beyond Asia's critically endangered vultures". The Royal
Society. Retrieved 11 May 2011.
^ Milius, Susan (4 February 2006).
"Bird-Safe Rx: Alternative drug won't kill India's vultures"].
ScienceNews. 169 (#5): 70. Retrieved 11 May 2011.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Sarcogyps calvus.
Wikispecies has information related to Sarcogyps calvus
Vulture Territory Facts and Characteristics: Pondicherry Vulture
BirdLife Species Factsheet.
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