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Long-billed Vulture

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Long-billed Vulture

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Long-billed Vulture
Conservation status: Critical
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Falconiformes
Family: Accipitridae
Genus: Gyps
Species: G. indicus
Binomial name
Gyps indicus
(Scopoli, 1786)

The Long-billed Vulture, Gyps indicus, is an Old World vulture in the family Accipitridae, which also includes eagles, kites, buzzards and hawks. It is closely related to the European Griffon Vulture, G. fulvus. Some sources treat the birds in the eastern part of its range as a separate species, the Slender-billed Vulture Gyps tenuirostris.

It breeds on crags or in trees in mountains in India and South-east Asia, laying one egg. Birds may form loose colonies. The population is mostly resident.

Like other vultures it is a scavenger, feeding mostly from carcasses of dead animals which it finds by soaring over savannah and around human habitation. It often moves in flocks.

The Long-billed Vulture is a typical vulture, with a bald head, very broad wings and short tail. It is smaller and less heavily-built than European Griffon. It is distinguished from that species by its less buff body and wing coverts It also lacks the whitish median covert bar shown by Griffon.

This and the Indian White-rumped Vulture, G. bengalensis species have suffered a 99% - 97% decrease in India and the cause of this has been identified as poisoning caused by a veterinary drug Diclofenac. Diclofenac is a non-steroidal antiinflamatory drug (NSAID) and it is given to working animals to help prevent joint pain and so keep them working. The drug is believed to be swallowed by vultures with the flesh of dead cattle which have been given diclofenac in the last days of life. Diclofenac causes kidney failure in the birds. [1]. In March 2005 the Indian Government announced its support for a ban on the veterinary use of diclofenac. Meloxicam (another NSAID) has been found to be harmless to vultures and should prove to be an acceptable substitute. In March 2006 diclofenac was still being used for animals throughout India and the changes in Indian legislation are awaited. When meloxicam production is increased it is hoped that it will be as cheap as diclofenac.

Captive breeding programmes

Captive breeding programmes for several species of Indian vultue have been started. The vultures are long lived and slow in breeding, so the programmes are expected to take decades. Vultures reach breeding age at about 5 years old. It is hoped that captive breed birds will be released back to the wild when the invironment is clear of diclofenac.

Head of Slender-billed Vulture
Head of Slender-billed Vulture


  • BirdLife International (2004). Gyps indicus. 2006 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN 2006. Retrieved on 09 May 2006. Database entry includes a range map and justification for why this species is critically endangered

External link

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