IUCN threat status:

Near Threatened (NT)

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The Eurasian Black Vulture or Cinereous Vulture (Aegypius monachus) is very rare (BirdLife International 2000; Svensson 2009). Populations have been declining for more than a century and the species has been extirpated from many countries where it once bred. In Europe, only around 1000 pairs remain (most of them in Spain). This species breeds in arid, wild mountain terrain and in extensive lowland forests with hills or rocky outcrops. These enormous vultures (over 1 m long with a wingspan approaching 3 m) feed mainly on carrion (mostly mammals), although they occasionally take live prey such as lizards and tortoises.

Eurasian Black Vultures breed in the spring and tend to congregate in loose colonies. In Europe, nests are nearly always in trees (usually evergreen oaks and pines), but in Asia they may also nest on rocks. Their huge stick nests are 1 to 2 m wide and 1 to 3 m deep. With very rare exceptions, clutch size is 1 egg. The incubation period is around 50 to 60 days and hatched young fledge at around 95 to 120 days. Hatching success is high, but many pairs do not breed every year. In captivity, the maximum known lifespan is 39 years.

Eurasian Black Vultures are found from the Iberian Peninsula across southern Europe and through the central Asian plateau to Mongolia and China. European populations persist only in Spain, the Balkans (Rhodope Mountain), and the Caucasus mountains (Russia, Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan). The status and population trends for this species in Asia, where the bulk of the global population resides, are poorly known. It appears that breeding populations are more or less stable in Mongolia (where the species is described as common) and Pakistan (where it is described as scarce), although fluctuations in distribution and breeding success occur. In Kazakhstan, however, populations of all vulture species are in severe decline. (Poulakakis et al. 2008 and references therein)

Although this species is threatened on a global scale (mainly due to habitat loss, reduced carrion availability, accidental poisoning, and direct persecution), in recent years concerted conservation efforts have seen significant success in some countries, notably in Spain. Margalida et al. (2011) discuss the challenges of minimizing the impact of activities associated with cork extraction (see the traditional process here) on Eurasian Black Vultures breeding in Cork Oak (Quercus suber) woodlands in Spain.

(Thiollay 1994 and references therein; Poulakakis et al. 2008; Svensson 2009)

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