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Himalayan Vulture
Gyps himalayensis

Status: Lower risk

Population Trend: Unknown.

Other Names: Himalayan Griffon, Himalayan Griffon Vulture.

Gyps himalayensis
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Distribution: Indomalayan/Palearctic. High altitude Central Asian republics and Himalayas from AFHANISTAN, northern PAKISTAN and northern INDIA through southern TIBET and NEPAL to BHUTAN, northern Assam, and central CHINA, northeast through the Pamirs to Tien Shan and possibly also into Tarbagatai and Altai; vagrant to SINGAPORE. more....

Subspecies: Monotypic.

Taxonomy: Based on molecular sequences of the mitochondrial cytochrome b gene, Wink (1995) found that the genera Gyps and Necrosrytes forms a sister clade to a group containing the genera Aegypius, Sarcogyps, Torgos, and Trigonoceps. Wink and Sauer-Gürth (2000) found that G. rueppellii and G. himalayensis form a closely related monophyletic group with G. coprotheres and G. fulvus, based on nucleotide squences of the cytochrome b gene. This species has sometimes been treated as a race of the Eurasian Griffon G. fulvus,, and the recent molecular studies of Johnson et al. (2006) indicated a closer relationship between G. himalayensis and the Asian race, G. fulvus fulvescens, than between the latter and nominate G. fulvus. The two forms are sympatric over wide areas of Central Asia (Vaurie 1965), although G. himalayensis generally occurs at higher altitudes (Beaman 1994). Further study is needed to clarify the species limits in this group.

Movements: Irruptive or local migrant, with juveniles dispersing from breeding areas (Bildstein 2006). Apparently an altitudinal migrant in some areas, as the species is absent in Bhutan during summer, when birds may be on the Tibetan plateau (Spierenburg 2005), and birds may also move in response to rainfall changes.

Habitat and Habits: This species occurs mainly in mountainous portions of the Himalayas, although juveniles winter in lowland portions of the Indian subcontinent. Little is know about its foraging strategies.

Food and Feeding Behavior: An obligate scavenger.

Breeding: Nests in niches in inaccessible cliff walls and precipices, but does not form large nesting colonies, as is the case with other Gyps vulture species. Typically, it nests singly, or in small colonies of four to six pairs on cliff faces (Naoroji 2006). Clutch size is a single unmarked white egg.

Conservation: It was hoped that this poorly studied species was not suffering from widespread diclofenac poisoning and population crashes like other Gyps species in the Indian subcontinent, because it occurs mostly in the higher portions of the Himalayas, where there is probably less use of the drug for veterinary purposes (Virani et al. 2008). However, Acharya et al. (2009) recorded a 67% decline in the number of birds reported per day and kilometer in 188 km of roadside transects in 2002, 2004, and 2005 in the mountainous region of Upper Mustang, Nepal, and the number of nests in breeding colonies there declined by 84%. On a more hopeful note, there has recently been an unusual increase in the number of sightings in southeast Asia. Li and Kasorndorkbua (2008) summarized 30 documented records in six southeast Asian countries, mostly involving immature birds. Categorized globally as "Least Concern" by BirdLife International, but treated as Near Threatened here to acknowledge the possibility that this species is suffering significant population declines at the species level. more....

Population Estimates: Lu et al. (2009) estimated that there may be as many as 229,339 Himalayan Vultures on the Tibetan Plateau.

Important References: 
Clark, W.S. 1994. Himalayan Griffon Vulture. P. 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.
Naoroji, R. 2006. Birds of prey of the Indian subcontinent. Om Books
  International New Dehli, India.
Rasmussen, P.C., and J.C. Anderton. 2005. Birds of South Asia: the Ripley
  guide. Vols. 1-2. Smithsonian Institution and Lynx Edicions, Washington,
  D.C. and Barcelona, Spain.

Sites of Interest:
Himalayan Vulture photos.

Arshad, Muhammad
Bhusal, Krishna
Dhakal, Hemanta
Gurung, Surya
Johnson, Jeff A.
Kapetanakos, Yula
Karmacharya, Dikpal Krishna
Katzner, Todd E.
Khadka, Bidur
Naoroji, Rishad K.
Soni, Hiren
Teli, Janki
Virani, Munir

Last modified: 5/20/2010

Recommended Citation: Global Raptor Information Network. 2022. Species account: Himalayan Vulture Gyps himalayensis. Downloaded from http://www.globalraptors.org on 23 Jan. 2022

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