Cinereous vulture (Aegypius monachus)

Identity card
Wingspan: 250-295 cm (it is the largest European vulture)
Plumage (adults): Dark brown/shiny black, the head is covered in blackish-grey down, naked skin is pink
Flight silhouette: When flying, cinereous vultures look like large rectangles, with long and wide wings and little protruding head and tail
Environment: Hill or mountain areas, with open spaces and woods (holm oak, cork oak and pine)
Nest: On large trees, seldom on rocks (this happens more frequently in Asia)
Diet: Carrion
Eggs: 1
Presence: Sedentary, juveniles tend to disperse

Distribution and status
The range of cinereous vultures encompasses the southern Palearctic and Asia as far as China. IUCN -  International Union for the Conservation of Nature - classified them as near threatened in 2008, because their already small world population (7,200-10,000 pairs) is rapidly declining in its Asian range.
In Europe, where they are classified as rare (Birdlife International, 2004), they breed only in few countries: Spain houses almost all of the European population (1,845 pairs).
In Italy, cinereous vultures are extinct as breeding species. They used to breed in Calabria until the beginning of the 20th century, and in Sardinia until the 1960s. They also bred on the Piedmont Alps and in the Foreste Casentinesi (central Apennines) until at least the 17th century.
Some vagrants (almost invariably coming from France, where a reintroduction project is ongoing) have been observed in the last years in Piedmont, Friuli, Tuscany, Marche, Lazio, Sicily and Sardinia.

Poison and other threats
Poison is one of the most serious threats to the conservation of this species.
Reintroduction of the cinereous vulture was attempted in 1980-81 in Sardinia by LIPU (Italian League for the Protection of Birds). A pair from Afghanistan was released in Bosano (Sassari): both birds were found poisoned a few months later.
Further threats are posed by wood cutting, electrocution, crashes against power lines or wind farms, poaching, disturbances in nesting sites, territory anthropization (fires, roads and forest tracks, hiking), reduced food availability, also due to closure of garbage dumps and, in Spain,  of muladares or vertederos, i.e. places where breeders used to dump dead animals.

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