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A photo of a Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus)
Egyptian Vulture

Egyptian Vulture

Neophron percnopterus

The Egyptian vulture (Neophron percnopterus), known colloquially as the white scavenger vulture or pharaoh's chicken, is a small member of the Old World vulture family. This bird is the sole representative of the genus Neophron. It is characterized by a white plumage with black flight feathers, a wedge-shaped tail, and a slender, hooked bill. The facial skin is a vivid yellow, adding a splash of color to its otherwise monochrome appearance.

Identification Tips

In flight, the Egyptian vulture is easily recognized by its contrasting underwing pattern and distinctive tail shape. Adults have a white body with black flight feathers, while juveniles are darker with a mottled pattern. The species exhibits sexual dimorphism, with females being slightly larger and heavier than males.

Habitat

These vultures are found in a variety of habitats, ranging from arid plains to lower hills and even urban areas where they may nest on tall buildings. They are also known to inhabit cliffs and large trees.

Distribution

The Egyptian vulture has a broad distribution, spanning the Iberian Peninsula, North Africa, West Asia, and India. Some populations are migratory, particularly those breeding in temperate regions, which travel south during winter.

Behaviour

Egyptian vultures are often seen soaring on thermals or perched atop a vantage point. They are opportunistic feeders, consuming carrion, small mammals, birds, reptiles, and even the eggs of other birds, which they are known to break open using tools.

Song & Calls

This species is mostly silent, but can emit high-pitched mewing or hissing sounds, especially around the nest or when competing for food.

Breeding

Breeding pairs are monogamous and may reuse the same nest sites annually. Nests are typically built on cliff ledges or in large trees and are constructed from twigs lined with rags. The breeding season begins in spring, with courtship involving soaring displays.

Similar Species

The Egyptian vulture can be confused with other vulture species when seen from a distance, but its smaller size and distinctive flight pattern make it identifiable upon closer inspection.

Diet and Feeding

These vultures feed on a range of items, including carrion, small animals, and even feces. They are known to use tools, such as pebbles to break open eggs, a behavior that is rare among birds.

Conservation status

The Egyptian vulture is classified as Endangered on the IUCN Red List. Its populations have declined due to various threats, including habitat loss, poisoning, and collisions with power lines. Conservation efforts are underway to address these challenges and protect this unique species.

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