Egyptian vulture (Neophron percnopterus)

Identity card
Wingspan: 155-170 cm (it is the smallest vulture to be found in Europe and Africa)
Plumage (adults): Black and white, with yellow bill and pink legs
Flight silhouette: White plumage, with black flight feathers, wedge-shaped tail
Environment: Open areas, with rocky cliffs and presence of livestock
Nest: Holes in rocky cliffs, seldom on trees
Diet: Carrion, placenta, dropping, garbage, small animals
Eggs: 1-2
Presence: The species breeds in Europe and overwinters in Sub-Saharan Africa

Distribution and status
Egyptian vultures are distributed across southern Europe, Africa, the Middle East, central Asia and India. In Nepal and India, the subspecies N. percnopterus ginginianus occurs.
The world population of Egyptian vultures is rapidly declining, therefore IUCN -  International Union for the Conservation of Nature - classified them as endangered in 2008.
The European population of Egyptian vultures, located around the Mediterranean, declined by 50% over the last three generations (42 years). About 2,600/3,100 pairs are currently estimated in Europe.
The Italian population of Egyptian vultures drastically decreased over the last 50 years.
In the 1970s, about 70 pairs were estimated to live in Maremma (between Tuscany and Lazio), Campania, Apulia, Basilicata, Calabria and Sicily, whereas only 8-9 pairs were recorded in the years 2013-2014, all of them in southern Italy (Basilicata, Apulia, Calabria and Sicily).
CERM (Centro rapaci Minacciati, an association protecting endangered birds of prey) is carrying out a programme of captive breeding and repopulation, which resulted so far in the birth of 28 birds, and in the release of 16 juveniles: two in Tuscany, one in Sicily, and 11 in Apulia, within the LIPU oasis of Gravina di Laterza (Taranto).
Some interventions to help this species, e.g. monitoring of nesting areas or food support, are carried out in certain nesting areas.
The Institute for Environmental Protection and Research, ISPRA (Istituto Superiore per la Protezione e la Ricerca Ambientale), published a National Action Plan concerning this species in the framework of the LIFE Rapaci lucani project, carried out in the Province of Matera between 2004 and 2009.

Poison and other threats
Poison is one of the most serious threats to the conservation of this species. In 1990, two adult Egyptian vultures (together with their eggs) were found poisoned in a nest in Sicily (Seminara, in Lo Valvo et al., 1993). Two pairs of Egyptian vultures were found poisoned near their respective nests, as reported by Salvo (1994).
Further threats are posed by electrocution, crashes against power lines or wind farms, poaching, disturbances in nesting sites, territory anthropization, 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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  • Egyptian vulture
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