Home | Species Database | Species Accounts | Bibliography | Researchers | Related Sites | Login

White-rumped Vulture
Gyps bengalensis

Status: Critically endangered

Population Trend: Declining.

Other Names: Asian White-backed Vulture, Indian Vulture, Indian White-backed Vulture, Indian White-rumped Vulture, Oriental Vulture, Oriental White-backed Vulture, Pseudogyps bengalensis.

more photos
Gyps bengalensis
click to enlarge
Distribution: Indomalayan. Formerly from southeastern IRAN, AFGHANISTAN, and PAKISTAN through NEPAL and most of the Indian subcontinent to south-central CHINA (Yunnan), Indochina, and the northern Malay Peninsula; now extirpated from much of its former range, especially the portion in Southeast Asia. more....

Subspecies: Monotypic.

Taxonomy: Based on molecular sequences of the mitochondrial cytochrome b gene, Wink (1995) found that the genera Gyps and Necrosrytes form a sister clade to a group containing the genera Aegypius, Sarcogyps, Torgos, and Trigonoceps. This species was formerly placed in the separate genus, Pseudogyps, with its sister species, G. africanus, based on their possession of 12 tail feathers instead of 14 in Gyps and nesting in trees instead of cliffs, but Wink (1995) and Arshad et al. (2009) recommended against this treatment based on the relatively small genetic distance between them and other Gyps species. Based on other molecular studies, which employed nuclear and mitochondrial DNA, Johnson et al. (2006) also found no support for the grouping of these two species as a genus separate from the monophyletic Gyps, although they did conclude that G. bengalensis underwent the earliest divergence from other Gyps species. Several vernacular names for this species enjoy wide usage, but "White-rumped Vulture" seems to be the best choice, mainly because it is the most concise and differs clearly from the common name of G. africanus, which is now known as the White-backed Vulture. more....

Movements: Partial migrant (Bildstein 2006). Historically, there was much post-breeding wandering.

Habitat and Habits: Enjoys a commensal relationship with humans and is closely associated with towns and villages.

Food and Feeding Behavior: Feeds on carrion and garbage, usually in large groups. more....

Breeding: The nest is a large stick structure with a deep cup loosely lined with leafy twigs located 10 m or higher in the main crown fork of a tree (Wells 1999). A single, usually unmarked white egg is laid.more....

Conservation: Formerly the most abundant large vulture species in the world, but it is now categorized as Critically Endangered (BirdLife International) and is in danger of imminent extinction. Populations have plunged over 99% since 1992, mostly as the result of exposure to diclofenac, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug administered to aging livestock to reduce joint pain. When vultures consume carcasses containing diclofenac residues, they almost invariably die from renal failure (Oaks et al. 2004). In response to international concerns about the situation, the governments of India, Pakistan, and Nepal separately banned the production and sale of diclofenac. Orders were issued to promote meloxicam, an alternative drug with the same veterinary effect as diclofenac, but one thought to be safe for vultures. Still, populations of Gyps have continued to decline, owing mainly to the difficult of ridding the environment of diclofenac. In addition, another NSAID, ketoprofen, has recently been shown to have the same lethal effect on Gyps vultures as diclofenac (Naidoo et al. 2009). Three captive breeding facilities have been established by the joint efforts of the Bombay Natural History Society, Royal Society for the Preservation of Birds, Zoological Society of London, and other philanthropic groups (Bowden 2009). They probably represent the last hope to save these vultures from extinction. more....

Population Estimates: This was formerly the most abundant raptor species in the world (Houston 1985), but BirdLife International (2009) now places the global population of mature birds in the range of 2,500 to 9,999 individuals. A recent note in WorldBirdwatch (September 2009) stated that "Scientists believe numbers of White-rumped Vultures in India could now be down to fewer than 11,000 individuals from tens of millions in the 1980s." more....

Important References: 
Clark, W.S. 1994. Indian White-backed Vulture. Pp. 126-127 in del Hoyo,
  J., A. Elliott, and J. Sargatal (eds). Handbook of birds of the world. Vol.
  2. New World vultures to guineafowl. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain.
Ferguson-Lees, J., and D.A. Christie. 2001. Raptors of the world. Houghton
  Mifflin, Boston, MA.
Gilbert, M., M.Z. Virani, R.T. Watson, J.L. Oaks, P.C. Benson, A.A. Khan,
  S. Ahmed, J. Chaudry, M. Ashad, S. Mahmood, and Q.A. Shah.
  Breeding and mortality of Oriental White-backed Vulture Gyps
in Punjab Province, Pakistan. Bird Conservation
  International 12:311-326.
Gilbert, M., R.T. Watson, M.Z. Virani, J.L. Oaks, S. Ahmed, M.J. Chaudhry,
  M. Arshad, S. Mahmood, A. Ahmad, and A.A. Khan.
2006. Rapid population
  declines and mortality clusters in three Oriental White-backed Vultures Gyps
colonies due to diclofenac poisoning. Oryx 40:388-399.
Green, R.E., I. Newton, S. Shultz, A.A. Cuningham, M. Gilbert, D.J. Pain,
  and V. Prakash.
2004. Diclofenac poisoning as a cause of population declines
  across the Indian subcontinent. Journal of Applied Ecology 41:793-800.
Green, R.E., M.A. Taggart, D.Das, D.J. Pain, C.S. Kumar, A.A. Cunningham,
  and R. Cuthbert.
2006. Collapse of Asian vulture populations, risk of
  mortality from residues of the veterinary drug diclofenac in carcasses of
  treated cattle. Journal of Applied Ecology 43:949-956.
Naoroji, R. 2006. Birds of prey of the Indian subcontinent. Christopher
  Helm, London.
Oaks, J.L., M. Gilbert, M.Z. Virani, R.T. Watson, C.U. Meteyer, B.
  Rideout, H.L. Shivaprasad, S. Ahmed, M.J.I. Chaudhry, M. Arhad, S.
A. Ali, and A.A. Khan.
2004. Diclofenac residues as the
  cause of vulture population decline in Pakistan. Nature 427:630-633.
Oaks, J.L., C.U. Meteyer, B.A. Rideout, H.L. Shivaprasad, M. Gilbert, M.
  Virani, R.T. Watson, and A.A. Kahn.
2004., Diagnostic investigation of
  vulture mortality: the anti-inflammatory drug diclofenac is associated with
  visceral gout. Pp. 241-243 in R.D. Chancellor and B.-U. Meyburg (eds.),
  Raptors Worldwide. World Working Group on Birds of Prey, Berlin and
  MME/Birdlife Hungary, Budapest.

Sites of Interest:
Vulture Rescue
Addresses the decline of Gyps vultures on the Indian subcontinent.
The Peregrine Fund
Currently investigating the cause of vulture declines in Pakistan.
Asian Vulture Population Project
Submit information (species, number of nests, number of chicks, location, etc.) on South Asian vultures at this site to assist in monitoring these species.
Red Data Book Threatened Birds of Asia
Detailed information on status, threats, and proposed conservation actions.
White-rumped Vulture photos.

Arshad, Muhammad
Baral, Nabin
Bhusal, Krishna
Bohra, Dr. Dau Lal
Dave, Ruchi
Dhakal, Hemanta
Gilbert, Martin
Gurung, Surya
Jethva, Dr. Bharat
Johnson, Jeff A.
Kapetanakos, Yula
Karmacharya, Dikpal Krishna
Katzner, Todd E.
Khadka, Bidur
Kothe, Sudhanshu
Patel, Snehal
Shastri, Kartik
Soni, Hiren
Teli, Janki
Virani, Munir

Last modified: 2/17/2010

Recommended Citation: Global Raptor Information Network. 2022. Species account: White-rumped Vulture Gyps bengalensis. Downloaded from http://www.globalraptors.org on 23 Jan. 2022

Home | Species Database | Species Accounts | Bibliography | Researchers | Related Sites | Login

Copyright © 1999-2012 The Peregrine Fund. All Rights Reserved.